Alot of the deer here at Dartmoor are starting to lose their velvet off their antlers, the sika deer have lost all their velvet now and the fallow and reindeer are starting to lose their's.
The growing antlers of deer are covered by skin and hair and is composed of cartilage with a rich blood supply, this makes them quite sensitive when they are touched. The antlers can grow up to an inch a day! The growth stage is called the 'velvet antler' because the skin and hair give it a velvet feel which is very soft. Once they have lost all their velvet the antlers calcify and become insensitve bone, breeding occurs around this time, which is known as 'the rut'. Around November to December time the male reindeer antlers drop off but the females keep their's until spring time once they have given birth. This is so that the females can defend the best grazing as they will hopefully have a baby on the way to feed.
Yesterday morning we moved our reindeer from their stable to their outside paddock and noticed that Blitzen our male had lost a few bits of velvet off his antlers but when we walked past early afternoon we saw that he had rubbed the majority of the velvet off. At this time of year the male's can become quite stubborn and now we will have to be very careful when we walk him around. At the moment he is fine with us walking him but we will monitor him daily and if he starts getting aggressive with us we will leave them in their night paddock and just take the girls for their walk every day.