A bull moose with large antlers.

Everything you wanted to know about moose antlers but were too afraid to ask

Are you intersted in learning about moose antlers? We were surprised by just how much there is to know about these interesting things that grow out of a moose’s head.

For example, some people wonder whether moose have antlers or horns, and what’s the difference? How big are moose antlers? And why do they have them anyway? When do they grow and when do moose shed them? 

And what’s this stuff called velvet?

Well, we’ve got answers to those questions and so much more!

Here’s everything you wanted to know about Moose antlers but were too afraid to ask…

What are moose?

Before we talk about antlers, first let’s disucuss just what is a moose? 

Moose are mammals and the largest members of the deer family.

Do moose have antlers?

Antlers are found on deer and other members of the Cervidae family. If you paid attention to what we shared earlier, moose are the largest members of the deer family. So, yes! Moose have antlers!!

Do all moose have antlers?

Not all moose have antlers. Only male moose (bulls) have antlers, and females (cows) do not have antlers.

What is the difference between antlers and horns?

Some people wonder: do moose have antlers or horns? To answer that question, we must understand the difference between antlers and horns. 

You already know that antlers are found on deer. Horns are found on a variety of animals such as goats, sheep and cows. Part of what makes antlers, well…antlers, is that they shed yearly and regrow.  Horns, on the other hand, are permanent fixtures. 

Antlers are larger than horns, with some species having incredibly huge antlers! Antlers also have a different shape than horns – they are usually branched and flat, while horns are curved and pointy. 

So there you have it – moose have antlers and not horns!

How big are their antlers?

Moose antlers can span 5 feet across and weigh up to 75 pounds! Although most antlers weight around 40 or 50 pounds.

Do moose shed their antlers?

Yes, Moose shed their antlers. 

Shedding usually occurs in late winter or early spring and new antlers begin to grow immediately after shedding. Antler growth is a complex process regulated by hormones and influenced by nutrition, age, and genetics. 

During the summer months, when daylight hours are long and food is plentiful, Moose antlers grow rapidly. As the days get shorter and food sources diminish, antler growth slows down and eventually stops. Once this occurs, the Moose’s body begins to re-absorb essential minerals from the antlers and they are shed for the season. After shedding, new antlers will begin to regrow in preparation for the next year. 

The process of antler shedding and regrowth is an important part of Moose biology and helps the species to adapt to their environment. The annual cycle of shedding and regrowing antlers allows for continual adaptation to changing environmental conditions, such as food availability or weather changes. This also makes it possible for Moose populations to maintain healthy genetic diversity since each Moose will have different antler shapes and sizes. 

Overall, shedding is a natural process for Moose, helping them to stay healthy and adapt to their environment. It is an incredible sight to witness, and if you’re lucky enough to see it in person, you’ll be sure to appreciate the power of nature!

When do male moose grow antlers?

Male moose grow antlers in the early spring and summer when food and nutrition are plentiful. In North America this process begins in March to early April until August when the velvet is shed and the antlers are fully formed.

Do moose lose their antlers every year?

Moose shed their antlers every season and then regrow antlers each year.

When do moose shed their antlers?

Moose shed their antlers in winter when food sources diminish, and they re-absorb the minerals from their antlers. In North America, this is in December.

Why do moose have antlers?

Imagine you’re a moose, and you want to establish that you’re the most important moose there is. How would you do that? 

One way you might imagine is by using your antlers to establish dominance over other males. A moose can use his antlers for sparring with other moose, proving he’s the best moose in the woods. 

Another reason moose have antlers is to help them during rut. Rut is the mating season for certain mammals, including moose. Large antlers may help indicate good health to female moose. In addition, the moose will spar with other moose to establish who is the best mate for female moose. During this time, sparring may turn deadly, with one or even both moose dying in the fight.

Why do moose antlers bleed?

If you were to touch moose antlers while they were in the growing phase, they would feel soft and warm. This is because they are coated in velvet which protects the antlers as they’re being formed. This velvet is filled with blood that transports nutrients into the antlers during formation. 

In fact, at this early stage, the moose antlers are very fragile and vulnerable. Injuries to the antlers can result in deformity of the antlers. 

Once the antlers are fully grown, the velvet sheds, which makes the moose antlers bleed. However, the antlers have hardened by this stage and are composed of hard mineral like calcium, making the shedding painless. But it still looks pretty bloody.

How heavy are moose antlers?

The National Park Service reports that average moose antlers might weight around 50 pounds, and as much as 75 pounds.

Clark, M. (n.d.). Eight points about antlers. https://www.fws.gov/story/eight-points-about-antlers Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (n.d.). Learn about moose. https://www.mass.gov/service-details/learn-about-moose 

National Park Service. (n.d.). Moose: Did you know? https://www.nps.gov/articles/moose-did-you-know.htm 

Salway, M.K.. (2005). Amazing antlers: Fast-growing bone a seasonal phenomena. Alaska Department of Fish and Game. https://adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=wildlifenews.view_article&articles_id=175

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