If you picture a male deer, chances are you imagine a pair of bony antlers. If you were to come across a male deer in late fall, that’s exactly what you’d see – majestic racks of antlers. Deer antlers are made of bone, unlike the horns of animals like goats and sheep which are made of hair-like tissue that continually grows in layers over a bony center.
If you visit Marineland in the spring or early summer, you may see our deer with a beautiful fuzzy coating over their growing antlers. The growing antler is covered by skin with numerous blood vessels called velvet. This velvet gives them that fuzzy look. As spring turns to summer, these growing antlers turn from a soft, spongy feel to hard bone.
So what happens in between? In early August the bone antler stops growing and the blood flow is cut off to the velvet coating. This causes the velvet to dry and start to fall off in patches, eventually revealing the pure bone antler beneath. It can look strange, and guests are not allowed to walk among the deer once this process starts, but it’s a perfectly natural and pain-free transition for the animal.
In the winter, after breeding season is over, deer lose their antlers completely. A number of factors regulate when deer shed their antlers, and they don’t always lose both at the same time. If you plan a visit to Marineland at different times through the season, take a look at the deer to see this amazing natural phenomenon in action.