Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick: Locking Deer Antlers (for the Week of Nov. 4, 2007)

October 26, 2007

Q. Dear Twig: Do deer ever get their antlers stuck together?

A.: It's not unheard of. But then again it's not that common. When it happens it happens when two males, or bucks, fight, which they do at this time of year, in fall. They fight to try to win females, or does ("doze"). To do it they whack their antlers together. Again and again if they need to and can. Clack! Whack! The antlers are hard and branchy. The stronger buck wins the doe. The weaker buck leaves and maybe goes home and sits on the sofa and watches "Kung Fu." (I love "Kung Fu"!)

"These battles are seldom fatal," says a nature bulletin by the Cook County (Illinois) Forest Preserve District, "but sometimes (the bucks') antlers become tightly locked together and both animals starve to death." Gik. Why?

"The bucks do not have as much strength in their backward yanks as they have in their forward thrusts, (so) they sometimes cannot unlock themselves," says a story in Alaska Fish and Game News.

Yay, most bucks have better luck!

Clackalacka!,

Twig

P.S. Antlers are made out of fast-growing bone. They fall off and grow back each year.

Notes: North America's common deer are the white-tailed and the mule, the former present in much of the continent, the latter mostly out West. Other antlered animals that run the risk of locking antlers (and sometimes do): elk, moose and caribou. Find the Cook County bulletin at http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/natbltn/700-799/nb730.htm ; the Alaska Fish and Game News story at http://www.wildlifenews.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=wildlife_news.view_article&articles_id=175 ; and a "Kung Fu" episode guide at http://www.kungfu-guide.com/.

"Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick," published by The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences — specifically, by the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) and Ohio State University Extension, the research and outreach arms, respectively, of the College — is a weekly column for children about science, nature, farming and the environment. It's written at a 4th-grade reading level. For details, to ask Twig a question, and/or to receive the column free by mail or e-mail, contact Kurt Knebusch, CommTech, OSU/OARDC,1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691, knebusch.1@osu.edu, (330) 263-3776. Online at http://extension.osu.edu/~news/archive.php?series=science.

Author(s): 
Kurt Knebusch