Discover Nature: White-Tailed Deer Shed Their Velvet
August 23 - August 29
Discover nature this week as young male white-tailed deer rub the velvet off their antlers.
The white-tailed deer is aptly named because the white undersurface of its flag-like tail is all that’s seen as it bounds across an opening in the woods.
Antlers occur only in males and are formed and shed each year. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, growth of the antler starts in April or May when the base of the antler, located on the skull, begins to enlarge. During the growth period, the soft skin and short hair covering each antler have a plush-like quality, giving this stage the name of "velvet."
Full antler size is reached in August or September, shortly before the breeding, or rutting, season. The velvet begins to dry and peel and the buck rubs his antlers against trees and shrubs to help remove the skin.
Extensive cultivation and unregulated hunting almost eliminated the white-tailed deer population in Missouri in the early 19 hundreds. In 1925, an estimate showed only 395 deer in the state.
Hunting was forbidden from 1938 through 1944. During this period, the Missouri Department of Conservation was formed and deer were trapped in areas of abundance and transplanted to likely habitat in other parts of the state. This transplanting program and the accompanying protection from illegal shooting proved fruitful.
White-tailed deer now occur in every county of the state, providing Missourians with considerable food, sport and pleasure through the commercial enterprise of deer hunting. Deer can be also be considered an asset to vacation sites as their attractive presence is aesthetically pleasing.
To keep track of current natural events like when young male white-tailed deer will rub the velvet off their antlers, you can get your own Natural Events Calendar from the Missouri Department of Conservation.