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Antlers are Awesome

There are two animals in the biosphere that share an awesome feature: antlers! Can you guess which two animals they are?

Moose (moozo) and white-tailed deer (waawaashkesh) are the two animals in the biosphere that grow antlers. They are both mammals and are both members of the deer family. Biologists call animals in the deer family cervids, and all cervids have antlers.

Antlers are structures that grow from the deer’s head. They are made of bone and are covered in a special layer skin and fur that is called velvet. Only the male moose and white-tailed deer grow antlers.

So if only the males grow antlers, what are they for?

Male deer and moose use their antlers to attract females and to fight with other males. It takes a lot of food and energy to grow big healthy antlers, so females find them very impressive! When fighting, males will lock their antlers together, like these moose are doing in the picture!

Males only fight with their antlers in the fall and early winter. This period of time is called the rutting season. Once the rut is over, moose and white-tailed deer shed their antlers. Antlers are quite heavy to carry around when they’re not being used! During a walk in the woods, you might find one of these shed antlers on the ground.

Did you know? Smaller animals like squirrels and porcupines chew on shed antlers for extra nutrients. 

In the early spring, male deer will start to grow their antlers back for the next rutting season. When the antlers are growing, they are covered in soft velvet that supplies the antlers with the blood that they need to grow. Once the antlers are done growing, the velvet peels off and reveals the smooth antler below, ready for another rutting season. 

If you see any moose or white-tailed deer in the Biosphere, look for their antlers! Do they have any antlers? Are they fuzzy with velvet, or are they bare? 

White-tail Deer

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