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How roe deer antlers grow


This is a roe buck that we saw this week in the Secret Lake Wood. In the last few weeks, we've been seeing roe deer with their full antlers out.

Roe deer antlers grow at a different time to red deer antlers. Roe antlers start growing around December, stop growing in April or May, and fall off around November. When I was watching the roe deer in December, the antlers were like small furry lumps. Different roe deers antlers grow at different speeds, but you can still see them getting bigger through the spring. Here are three different deer in December, January and March.

Antlers are made out of a special kind of bone. They grow by having fur round them, and the fur is called velvet. The velvet helps get blood to the antlers to help them grow. Velvet on roe deer is thicker than velvet on red deer antlers because they have to keep the antlers warmer in winter.

I found a red deer skull once where the stag died while the antlers were still in velvet. The antlers felt soft, much softer than bone and I could have broken the antler with my hands. So roe deer need to make sure they don't hit their antlers off trees or fight other deer because their soft antlers might break.

Here is a roe buck my dad saw in February. One of it's antlers had already broken. So this buck must be careful when it gets into fights with other bucks.

UPDATE: We saw this same deer again in June, near where we saw it the first time. This is what his antlers looked like when the velvet came off.

When the antlers go hard, the velvet falls off. Roe bucks scrape their antlers on trees, and the velvet falls off and dies. Here is a roe buck in the Gleneagles wood where the velvet is starting to come off in different tatters.

Different roe deers antlers grow at different speeds. This roe deer was in Titus Well Wood at the end of March, and its antlers aren't very big.

But this was a different roe deer in the Pheasant Woods at the start of March, and his antlers had finished growing. Maybe this deer had better food, because antlers need a good diet to grow properly.

If a deer dies while it has antlers, they stay stick onto the skull and are almost impossible to break off, like on this skull.

But in November the antlers fall off before new ones grow. You can sometimes find antlers lying on the ground. Here are three of my shed roe deer antlers.

Roe deer antlers are smaller than red deer antlers, and they only ever get three points. The ruler in the picture is 15cm long. The bottom has a rough bit called the coronet, and above it is knobbly with what are called pearls. They start off light brown, then change to dark brown as they get rubbed against trees.

Below is the biggest set of roe antlers I've seen. This roe buck was by himself in the Pheasant Wood yesterday morning.

UPDATE: I have written another article about roe deer antlers, this time about when roe deer antlers don't grow right. You can read it here.

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marsch1962 said...

Great Blog & information Jake. Keep up the good work!

Regards, Maria

Bolsterturf said...

Beautiful writing about roe deer, and beautiful pictures too.

Jake said...

Thanks !

Burtongo said...

Brilliant site Jake and the most informative on the web! I spotted two deer this morning but was struggling to work out if they were Roe or Red, we have both roaming free here in Derbyshire.
From your blog I am fairly certain it was a Buck and Doe.


Jake said...

Glad it helped !

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