Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Antlers Are Shed

Whitetail bucks shed their antlers each year after the rut. It seems that the smaller bucks in this area usually shed during Christmas week or somewhat later, with the largest often being among the last to shed.  This year only two of the yearling bucks returned after the rut and only one stayed long enough that I could document the shedding of his antlers.  He had both spikes on January 2, but when he appeared on the morning of the 3rd, the left antler was gone.

Spike Buck-One Antler Shed: Canon 5D MK III 500mm F4 -1/400 sec. f4.5-ISO 1000
He still had this antler on the morning of the 4th, but it was gone when he appeared in late afternoon.  I was able to photograph the raw pedicle with the 500mm F4, but the image is severely cropped to give it impact.

Raw Pedicle: Canon 5D MK III 500mm F4 -1/2000 sec. f4.5-ISO 400
 I have seen bucks with antlers in early to mid-February and have heard of them still having antlers as late as early April, but it seems that most have lost them by mid-February. This pattern has held true in my home area for several years, but the normal order of things seems to have changed at Shenandoah National Park.

I used to visit Shenandoah National Park to photograph whitetail bucks during the Martin Luther King Holiday weekend, and one always saw several mature bucks still carrying antlers, but  Larry W. Brown reports in a post on Flickr, Full Circle-Part 1 , that this is the second year in a row that the bucks have shed early.  I am not sure why the time frame on shedding has shifted.  One could  suspect that it was a side effect of the tranquilizer from the collaring program, but that would not explain that they also shed early in 2011.

Also be sure to read Larry's post Full Circle-Part 2 for more about the research program and a look at how visitor numbers plummeted in November 2012.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.


Nancy J said...

Could the shedding relate to the weather, food available, hinds that have been and gone, numbers of bucks/stags in that area? Beautiful photos, the raw area, I would hope it heals fast and well. Cheers from Jean.

Linda G. said...

I was thinking, too, like Nancy J if the shedding could be related to the weather. That is a lovely portrait of the yearling buck. I wondered how you got so close to take such a close-up picture of the raw pedicle. Even severely cropped the photograph provides lots of detail.

Willard said...

Thanks for the comments, Linda and Nancy.

According to Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Note-28 by Chuck Fergus, "The antler cycle is influenced by secretions from the pituitary gland. Changes in length of daylight periods and, to a lesser degree, temperature influence the hormone secretions from this gland".

He goes on to say, "The roles of age and nutrition in the length of antler retention are not fully understood at present".

I will do more research on this subject, but I suspect that one will not find a definitive answer.

The small buck was photographed in an area where hunting is not allowed and he sees me so frequently that he is not alarmed at my presence, which gives one a good chance to document unusual things such as this.

Lindsjö taxar said...

Great documented, interesting in post and comments, thanks!!

jeremy said...

Professionally taken! Great shots!

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