Lost & Never Found Antlers

Do you ever wonder what happens to all the shed antlers out there that go unfound?  As a shed hunter, it drives me crazy just thinking about it.  I wish there was some kind of super shed finding gadget . . .  something similar to a thermal imaging gun, only it would light up shed antlers.  Unfortunately, there isn’t.  Thus, any sheds unseen by the human eye forgo the course of Mother Nature…and by that, I mean squirrels and other antler chewing critters.

Gosh, do squirrels ever drive me nuts (pun intended)!  You spot an antler from your #1 buck laying off in the distance, only to find all the tips have been chewed off once you pick it up.  Depending upon where they are dropped, squirrels and other rodents can make quick work of freshly cast antlers.  To them, it’s like finding a mineral gold mine!

What animals are the most likely to chew on shed antlers?

Squirrels, porcupines, mice, chipmunks, ground hogs, rabbits, opossums, raccoons, coyotes, dogs, and even deer have all been witnessed munching on antlers.  Of those, I would say squirrels, porcupines, raccoons and mice are the most prevalent antler shavers and crunchers.

The antler eater in question will be contingent on the location and habitat type of where the shed antler was dropped.  For instance, if an antler falls off in a wooded area or near a tree line, squirrels are likely to be first on scene.   On the flip side, if an antler was dropped in the middle of a prairie or CRP field, mice are usually the first to start nibbling away. 

Why do animals chew on antlers?

It’s just what they do, right?  Maybe, but there’s more to it than that.  For those critters, running into an antler on the ground is like us walking into a GNC store or a deer finding a Trophy Rock station.  Containing nearly 20% calcium, 10% phosphorus, and dozens of other minerals, sheds are nature’s supplemental vitamin power packs.  Not only are they a huge source of calcium and phosphorus, but they also serve to shave down the ever growing teeth of rodents.

Antlers Plowed Under

Another thought I commonly have while walking or driving past crop fields is, how many sheds are laying out there that will be tilled under this spring?  It’s an impossible figure to calculate, but it seems like it’s not all that uncommon to hear about a farmer puncturing a tractor tire because they ran over a shed antler.  If antlers find tires that often, just imagine how many the plow buries.

This is one of the more expensive ways to find sheds.      Photo credit: Nathan Paden

In the end, there’s only one way to stop this lost and never found shed antler epidemic . . . hike more miles.

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