Is Deer Shedding Velvet Painful?

What is a True Deer and its Physical Characteristics? What are different Variations in Antlers? When does Shedding start? Do Deer bleed when they lose their Velvet? 
is deer shedding velvet painful
Image by Lubos Houska from Pixabay

Animals may seem to have a perfectly independent life in the wild, but we know only a little about them. You must have heard or even seen a snake shedding its skin. But have you ever witnessed a deer shedding its antlers? Sounds weird? Here you will know the answers to Do deer bleed when they lose their velvet and is deer shedding velvet painful? Is Shedding of Deer Antler Velvet cruel? So, let’s read more to find out. 

1. What is a True Deer?

The hoofed ruminant mammal from the family Cervidae is known as the true deer or deer. The deer is divided into two groups,

2. What is the Weight and Height of Deer?

The physical feature of deer is their powerful long legs along with a diminutive tail and long ears. The different breeds of deer can have different body proportions because every deer is not the same. The height and weight of each deer may vary according to physical features, gender, and age. The average weight of adult male deer varies from 120-160 pounds while females range from 80-120 pounds. The following are the height and weight of moose, elk, and northern pudu:

  • Moose: 4 to 7 feet (1.4-2.1 meters) and 200-700 kilograms (440-1500 lbs.)
  • Elk: 4 to 5 feet (1.3 to 1.5 meters) and 220 to 330 kilograms (400-750 lbs.)
  • Northern Pudu (the smallest deer): 32 to 35 cm (13-14 inches) and 3.3-6 kilograms (7.3- – 13.2 Ibs.). Must read what is the Largest Wolf?

3. What are Other Features?

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Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash

Their coat color varies greatly and can be in different shades of brown and red. In Tufted deer, their coat is chocolate brown while elk have a tinge of grey in their coat. They shed fur twice a year and are known as molt. They have different furs for summer and winter. In winter they replace their summer coat and in summer/early fall they replace their winter coat. (See 10 Interesting Facts About Sea Lions)

4. What are Antlers?

The branched horns at the head of the adult deer are termed Antlers. Every male deer from both groups has antlers while females don’t. But there is an exceptional case both male and female water deer do not have antlers; instead, they have fangs or tusks, the long canines that reach below their lower jaw. Female reindeer have antlers, but they are less branched and smaller than males. (See What is a Herd of Moose Called?)

5. What is the Weight of Antlers?

The average weight of antlers in any deer varies from 3 to 9 pounds. The antler of a healthy deer is heavier. The antler of bull elk spreads over four feet and each weighs 20 pounds whereas antlers of moose spread over six feet and each weigh 40 pounds. (See What is a Female Lion Called?)

6. What are Different Variations in Antlers?

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Image by congerdesign from Pixabay 

Every deer does not have the same type of antlers because the shape varies from breed to breed.

  • Elk and fallow deer have palmate antlers which means there is a broad space between the two antlers.
  • White-tailed deer and moose have branching antlers with a series of tines growing upwards from the forward curve.
  • The Pudu deer have antlers with spikes. (See 9 Differences between Mule and Donkey)

7. When do Antlers start to Grow?

Antlers are noticeable at an age of 4 to 5 months in male fawns. During the first year, antler development begins. A soft bony structure begins to grow from the pedicles. They appear on the head just in the same line along the ears. Within the same year, spiky antlers grow up. In the third year, major branches are visible. Antlers shed and grow every year with similar patterns and sizes. (See Where do Buffaloes roam?)

8. What are Velvet Antlers?

When the antlers start emerging, they are not as hard as you imagine. These antlers are made of soft tissues, and therefore they are known as velvet antlers. These soft tissues harden as the deer ages. They are stronger than bone and rich in calcium, magnesium, iron, and fiber. To know if the deer shedding velvet painful or not, read the next segments.

9. What is Velvet Shedding?

Antlers are covered with soft skin tissues and their tines are round, as the calcification has not yet started that will make them hard. When you see a deer with fuzzy antlers it will be similar to velvet. At a point when the deer realizes the antlers have matured, they will start shedding off the outer velvety layer to reveal the hard and strong antlers. (See How Do Porcupines Attack?)

10. When does Shedding start?

So, is deer shedding velvet painful? We’re almost there. From Mid-August to the first half of September, deer are seen to begin shedding their velvets. They understand that time has come through changes in the photoperiod. It is the period when the days are shorter, and nights are longer.  Also, check out What is the Largest Cattle Ranch in The United States?

11. How Long does Shedding take?

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Photo by Richard Lee on Unsplash

Deer have to rub their antlers in the branches of plants to remove the skin. It is seen that the process may take as little as 3 hours. However, the longest duration of the process of velvet shedding can take up to 48 hours (2 days). (See What Animal has the Longest Pregnancy?)

12. Is Deer Shedding Velvet Painful?

According to animal experts, velvet shedding is similar to the skin shedding process in snakes. As snakes do not feel any pain while shedding their skin, similarly, velvet shedding does not cause any pain. However, they may feel a little itching, but that is all. 

13. Do Deer bleed When They lose their Velvet?

The velvet skin coating contains dense blood vessels that carry nutrient-rich blood for the rapid and healthy growth of antlers. So, if there are some active blood vessels during the shedding there may be some blood during the process. Otherwise, shedding velvet leaves only strips of blood-covered skin hanging from their new antlers. This is the reason why deer shedding velvet may or may not be painful. (See 14 Interesting Facts about Mammals)

14. Why do They Haste to shed?

As you already know the reasons why is deer shedding velvet painful, below are the reasons why they haste to shed:

  • Change in photo periods signals them that the rutting and mating periods are around the corner.
  • Rutting is the fight to win the female.
  • To win the fight they must have a good and healthy pair of antlers. (See Do Bulls Hate Red?)

15. When and Why does Antler fall off?

Antlers are not there for long because the growth and size of antlers depend largely on the level of testosterone produced by the deer. Their testosterone levels are at their peak during the fall (autumn) and as the mating season for females ends in winter, male hormones also decrease naturally. This is the time when the osteoclast cells started re-absorbing calcium from the pedicles. This makes the antlers weaker and weaker until they eventually fall off. I guess now you can answer in detail – is deer shedding velvet painful or not. (See 4 No Stripe Zebra Facts)

16. What other Factors affect Antler Shedding?

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Photo by Diana Parkhouse on Unsplash

Every breed is different from each other in terms of size, place, etc. Therefore, there are a few factors that can affect their shedding.

  • Region –Since the shedding begins towards the end of the mating season, therefore, deer living in colder regions tend to shed their antlers first. Their fallen antlers can be found on the ground during the latter half of December. (See Where do Horses live?)
  • Nutrition – Growing and shedding depend on their diet. The healthier the deer, the stronger their antlers are. This in turn makes the shedding of antlers a more delayed process that can extend up to mid-January.
  • Age – A deer of age 3 to 3.5 years sheds off its antlers faster than the fawns. Therefore, the antlers of deer in this age group are shed during mid-December.

17. What is Deer Antler Velvet Cruel?

Recently it has been discovered that the velvet of elks and other deer are affected by the pathogens of chronic wasting disease (CWD). It is a contagious and dangerous disease for deer and elk. Also, humans who consume fallen pieces of velvet for their nutritional value are at risk of getting the disease.

So, is deer shedding velvet painful, is shedding of deer antler velvet cruel to them, or it is just a myth? Well, you know the answers. Also, you should now be able to answer why do deer bleed when they lose their velvet. (See Where do Animals get Nitrogen from?)

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