The growth rate of deer antlers is the fastest in the animal world: the cell division and growth rate of the antler's cells are similar to those of cancer. The growth process of the antler is under hormonal control, and the antler ceases to grow at the beginning of the reproduction season, with the rise in the level of testosterone. At this stage begins the peeling phase of the ‘velvet’ – the highly vascular skin that covers the antler. During the peeling phase the deer rubs its antlers against anything it can reach – trees, posts, fences, and within two to three days the antler bone is bare and exposed. Now the animals’ behaviour changes: the males become aggressive and begin to challenge one another. The ‘velvet’ of our deer rubbed off two weeks ago, but their aggressive encounters are purely symbolic, as there are no females over which to compete.

The ‘velvet’ on our adult male’s antlers (the one with the distorted antler), has already disappeared too, and he was observed rubbing away at both antlers equally. The distorted antler has become club-shaped and the deer uses it in its fights with other males just as if it were an ordinary antler. We are now waiting for the antler to shed and we shall then transfer it to the museum. It will be interesting to follow
up and see how the two new antlers develop next year.

It seems that the decision to wait and see how the antler would develop and whether it would disturb the deer – proved to be the right one. At a certain stage in the growth process the deer was anaesthetised and the antler was closely examined in order to ensure that there was no hidden inflammation. When we saw that all appeared to be growing normally, we let nature take its course.

Photo: Ron Elazari-Volcani

Photo: Ron Elazari-Volcani

Photo: Ron Elazari-Volcani

Photo: Ron Elazari-Volcani

Photo: Ron Elazari-Volcani

Photo: Ron Elazari-Volcani

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