It's that time of year again when the red deer start to cast their antlers. Today Eric, our "Master Stag," cast his first one. As you can see, they don't always drop at the same time and it can be a few days between each antler falling.
Red Deer cast their antlers every year before starting to grow a new set. Each year the antlers growth follow a similar pattern to previous years, and usually get a little bigger. The number of tines on the antlers has no correlation to the age of the deer and you can't count them to work out how old a stag is, however it is true that usually the older stags have more tines.
The new antlers will only take around 16 weeks to grow, covered by a "velvet" which helps to carry the nutrients required for growth. The deer will then shed this velvet during mid Summer to expose their new antlers, made of keratin, ready for the rut later in the Autumn.
Back in 2008 I took a series of photos of Eric growing his new antlers, one a week, and it took exactly 16 photos for the full growth. Last year Peter Trimming, a regular visitor, re created the series with a photo a week. You can see these photos on our flickr group.
You can see it was 23 weeks before his new antlers had shed the velvet, but if you look closely enough I think you will agree that they actually stopped growing around the 16/17th week.
The antlers are pretty heavy, and this one cast today weighed just shy of 3kg. Thats 6kg Eric has been carrying around with him for the last 7 months.
We often get asked what we do with all the antlers that are cast. Well, the nicer ones we keep for display purposes, the newly cast ones from our main stag/buck we keep to show to school groups and colleges/universities, and the older and smaller ones we cut up to put in with our smaller rodents as a way to help keep their teeth down and as a source of calcium
... There's always one!
So, What do you call a deer with no eyes?
No eyed deer
What do you call a deer with no eyes and no legs?
Still no eyed deer
What do you call a castrated deer with no eyes and no legs?
Still no..... well, I guess we should leave it there for the jokes.
Come and see Eric next week and give him some sympathy, it's this time of year that the younger stags feel more important while he just looks like a big hind!