Ask a Naturalist: Is it normal for a deer to have blood on its antlers?
August 05, 2021
Written by Sara Tabatabai
It depends! If you ever seen a deer like in the photo below during the fall season, then yes, it is very normal!
The deer that call the Effie Yeaw Nature Study Area home are Black-tailed deer. Unlike species like Reindeer, only the male Black-tailed deer grow antlers. Every winter (between January and March), male Black-tailed deer (known as bucks) drop their antlers. Regrowth begins in April and usually ends around August. During this growing period, the buck’s antlers are covered in a soft layer of skin tissue called ‘velvet’. Underneath this velvet layer are nerves and blood vessels that support the fast antler growth.
This velvet layer gradually dries and sheds away from the antlers once they are fully developed. The buck then begins to rub his antlers against anything, usually trees, to help pull the velvet skin entirely off. Removing this tissue typically takes one day. This exposes the fresh, newly developed antlers still covered in leftover blood that eventually dries up and/or washes away. Bucks are known to eat some of the discarded velvet as it is rich in nutrients such as calcium. The rest of it provides a source of these nutrients to the forest floor and other animals.
You can expect to see this during mid-September through October!
Next time you’re hiking through the Nature Preserve this coming fall season, keep an eye out for any bucks that still have that velvet layer on their antlers! We have quite a number of young males still developing, and you might be lucky to see one work on removing their velvet once their antlers are done growing.
Create your own pair of antlers by following this easy tutorial!
Want to make one out of construction paper? Check out this tutorial!
Got a question for a naturalist? Email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org with the Subject Line ‘Ask a Naturalist’ and look for an answer in the near future!