Why does a moose grow new antlers every year?

Bull moose shed their antlers every year

BULL MOOSE shed their antlers every year. And every year they grow a new set. Why is this, when bison and other horned ruminants don't grow horns every year?

The reason is that antlers are not like ruminant horns. Antlers are made of true bone, without a central core and a horny sheath, so antlers frequently break.

Except for the musk deer of central Asia, and the Chinese water deer, the males of all living deer have antlers. Reindeer are unique in that both males and females have antlers.

The extinct Irish elk holds the record for huge antlers, which spanned around 3 meters (10 feet). These antlers weighed as much as some smallish humans do today.

Of living moose, the largest antlers come from moose in Alaska. These can reach 1.8 meters (6 feet).

When antlers start to grow

Antlers start growing on a male moose from one year of age, and continue growing until he is about 5. As he gets older the antlers recede.

It is difficult to tell the age of a moose from its antlers unless it is very young. When it is about one year old it has only two or three points on each antler. The points increase after that, but in old age a moose's antlers may start to take on strange shapes.

Moose live 15-20 years if they survive to adulthood, but a large number of baby moose die in their first couple of months from attacks from bears and wolves.

A moose is an elk

The moose (technical name Alces alces) is the largest member of the deer family. It is known as an elk in Europe. Unrestricted hunting for many years — for its antlers and head as trophies, and for its beef-like flesh as food — reduced moose numbers drastically. Laws now protect it in North America and Europe, and hunting is more tightly controlled.

But what about those antlers that are replaced every year? Well, the antlers are used largely in displays and as weapons when the males fight for females, and breakages are common during the rut. The antlers are shed each winter after the mating season in September and October.

In His wisdom, God the Creator provided a way for the bull moose to start each breeding season with a nice new set of undamaged antlers — by simply letting the moose grow new ones!

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Loud shout stuns moose

The deputy mayor of the Norwegian village of Songdalen was out hunting rabbits. Suddenly, a moose protecting her young charged at him. The deputy mayor, Svein Harald Folleraas, told the Oslo newspaper Verdens Gang that he immediately “unleashed a tremendous shout” at the moose. “The moose instantly collapsed on to the ground, a meter from me,” Folleraas said. A few seconds later the stunned moose stumbled to its feet and slowly staggered away. The newspaper said eyewitnesses verified the deputy mayor's story.

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