Thursday, August 28, 2014

Only deer have them

And they are not horns. Antlers are a form of bone; they grow from a small button-shaped knob on the male deer's head called a pedicle. Only the deer family, Cervidae, grow them. The deer grow their antlers during the summer, in preparation for the rut. Sometime in midwinter the antlers fall off. After they fall off, they generally don't last long as mice, porcupines, and squirrels eat them as they are rich in mineral content.

Why they grow them is a question that scientists are still trying to answer. They require a great deal of energy to grow so they must offer some advantage. They don't seem to be defense against predators as only male deer grow them. If they were defense, we might expect females to also grow them. So, for males, they may be for fighting other males during the rut, or for attracting females.

"When it comes down to it, though, the only thing we can be sure of is this — why antlers? Because they're a handy weapon against other male deer! Drawing the attention of the ladies may possibly be just an extra (not primary) benefit." is the final conclusion of the  Mississippi State University Deer Lab.  You can read more here.

Horns, however, are for defense. They are grown by both the male and female of the family bovidae.  Bovidae, are cloven hoofed, ruminant animals, such as cows.

And here is a fun game to help you learn the difference. Courtesy of our friends, the National Park Service.

a deer rub.
The deer antlers at Cromwell are still covered in velvet. The velvet is a skin-like covering over the bone that supplies blood and nutrients to the antlers. After the antlers are grown, the velvet dies and the deer rub it off on trees. This is the cause of deer rubs, that you may have noticed at one time or another.

Below are some recent pictures of the deer at Cromwell Valley Park. Enjoy them, I hope.

Don't forget to go outside and play.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Family portrait, Birds in flight, and the Deer in velvet

Summer. That's my excuse for the delay since my last post. It's a pretty good summer in the family, though.

The camera has been in a couple different locations, and captured some interesting photographs. Three subjects seem to jump out from the rest. A family group of raccoon, both day and night; various birds in flight, and sitting on the camera; and the buck's antlers are coming out, still in velvet.

A disclaimer. Please disregard the date and time stamp. The camera got wet, and I had to dry it out. In the process I reset it and forgot to set the date and time. All the photographs in this post were taken in the last three weeks.

Raccoon family.

A set of photographs of a mother and children. Aren't these fun?

And maybe even more fun. The same family at night. Look closely. Those eyes are in there.

And in an open field, some birds, in flight and sitting on the camera.

And the deer are out in force. The yearlings are growing up, and the bucks are growing their antlers. 

 It's a beautiful world. Go outside and play in it.