What Eats Deer Antlers? 4 Antler Eating Animals That May Surprise You


Last Updated on October 22, 2020 by Derrick

What Eats Deer Antlers?  A number of animals will eat deer antlers when they happen upon a dead deer or where a deer has shed its antlers.  The following animals have been known to show an interest in deer antlers.

There are many people who try to find antler sheds in the woods,given the amount of antlered deer in the woods it is surprisingly hard to find antler sheds.  One common reason for this is many animals within the forest consume the deer antlers.

Before we discuss what animals eat deer antlers let’s level set and cover a little information about deer antlers.

What are antlers made of?

According to Bill O’Brian from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, antlers are made of bone.1  Often you will see deer with velvet antlers, when they are in this stage the antlers are actively growing, the velvet helps provide a blood supply to the antlers.  Eventually the velvet will dry up and the deer will rub the antlers on trees and branches to get the velvet to fall off.

When do deer shed antlers?

Deer will shed antlers during the winter months, from as early as December to as late as March deer will shed antlers.  The deer will grow them back the following season.  This may be one of the reasons why we don’t often see antler sheds in the forest.  Most people are more active hiking and outdoors in the summer and early fall, come winter time the foot traffic in the average forest greatly drops down.  By the time spring comes and foot traffic picks up nature has consumed the antlers.

What Animals Eat Deer Antlers and Why?

A large number of animals may chew on or eat deer antlers, let’s dig into each animal that is known to eat deer antlers and discuss why they may be doing so.

Dogs – Do Dogs Eat Antlers?

Many people purchase antlers for dogs to chew on in place of other chew toys.  Overall, they are a fairly safe option for dogs according to the American Kennel Club, they are also fairly sustainable because the antlers are otherwise discarded each year.

Dogs should be supervised when they are chewing on antlers, while it is safe for dogs to chew on them they shouldn’t swallow the antlers if they crack as the pieces could be sharp and cause injury to your dog.

Mice

Mice eat deer antlers, they will keep working at an antler shed until it is completely gone.  Antlers are a good source of calcium, phosphorus, mineral salts and even protein for mice.

Chipmunks and Squirrels and/or Porcupines

Chipmunks, squirrels and Porcupines,  like mice get minerals from consuming the antler sheds.  They will often consume antler sheds rather quickly.   One of my fathers friends keeps his deer antlers on the wall in his garage, he came out one day to find a red squirrel perched on a shelf gnawing on one of his antlers from a previous hunting season.

Do Coyotes Eat Deer Antlers? 

Coyotes do eat deer antlers, lets analyze why this may be.  It is fairly common knowledge that canines such as dogs like to chew on bones, antlers are bones and coyotes are very similar to domestic dogs.  Coyotes likely do not chew on the antler sheds for minerals like mice or porcupines do, they are likely using them to chew on out of boredom.

What are antler sheds used for and can humans eat them?

Humans shouldn’t chew on antlers, it looks strange.  But some people do actually consume antlers, but cutting them into pieces and boiling them down and straining off the remnants  to make gelatin.

This is actually used in some old time recipes, but isn’t very common today.

Humans who are interested in finding antler sheds are usually trying to find them for crafts, decorations or to sell.  You can buy deer antlers online and people will often buy them to use for things such as knife handles, for decorations in rustic scenarios (ie certain restaurants or to decorate a rural cabin).

Fresh whitetail antler sheds sell for around $6-8 per pound, for as hard as antler sheds are to find, this isn’t very much money.

Other Related Questions

Now that we have established what eats antlers in the forest, and why humans are often looking for antlers we can cover some additional questions you may have.

Do Deer Antlers Splinter?

Antlers are extremely hard, so while generally they can hold up to chewing by dogs, if they do crack they are known to splinter, this can cause a safety concern for pet owners.  Be sure to closely monitor your dog if you do give them antlers to chew on, just as you would with any other bone.

Do deer antlers have marrow?

Yes, since deer antlers are bones they do have marrow. While they do have marrow it isn’t as much marrow as bones of a similar size would have.  They have thicker hard outer core, which is why many dog owners seek out antlers to give to aggressive chewing dogs.

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