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FWP Outdoor Report: How antlers grow

Annual antler replacement is an extremely complex process
FWP explains antlers
Posted at 11:17 AM, Sep 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-16 14:51:32-04

Antlers of deer, elk, and moose are sought after by hunters and craftsmen, and even have medicinal value to some. This week’s Outdoor Report from Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks takes a look back at a story about how antlers grow each year.

The end begins in late summer; the days will shorten and the blood stops pumping through the velveted antlers. These animals are in transition nourishing the strength and majestic antlers that they will need. But antler growth is more than just good nutrition.

“Antler growth is genetically determined to a large part. Some of the larger bucks are genetically programmed to be bigger bucks, but in any given year you might have quite a bit of variation in growth rates due to the different nutritional level that vary from year to year or site to site,” explained Mike Thompson with MT FWP.

Annual antler replacement is an extremely complex process.

“Some biologists have really compared the growth and shedding and regrowth of antler to somebody losing an arm and then having that regrow and then lose it, then regrow; it’s that complex of a biological process to produce that material year after year,” Thompson said.

Adding to the complexity of this process, antlers grow at an incredible rate.

“They begin growing in the later part of April, first part of May. And an elk for example, you may have 30 pounds of material by the end of August and they’ll grow ½ inch a day at peak periods,” Thompson stated.