Nagarhole National Park is home to four species of deer. The smallest one is the Mouse Deer, and the largest the Sambar deer. In between, we have the Spotted Deer (Chital) and the Barking Deer (Muntjac).
Antlers, on members of the deer family, are grown as an extension of the animal’s skull. Antlers are found only on male deer. They are shed and re grown each year. Each antler grows from an attachment point on the skull called a pedicle.
While an antler is growing, it is covered with highly vascular skin called velvet, which supplies oxygen and nutrients to the growing bone. A deer with antlers sheathed in velvet is sensitive and extremely protective of his antlers. These deer will not fight or spar with their antlers when still in velvet, and if provoked, they will rise to strike with their just as deadly hooves.
Watching a deer in velvet in the forest, you will see him delicately turn to avoid brushing the branches with his antlers. Antler growth spans two to four months, after which time, the velvet is no longer needed. Then a ring, which effectively serves as a shutoff valve, forms at the base of the antlers, and cuts off the blood supply to the velvet. As a result, the velvet withers, dries up, and falls off, often assisted by the deer, which rubs his antlers against tree bark.
The antler regeneration is complete, and the shedding cycle will resume once the mating season in the fall concludes.