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NM Outdoors- Summer vibes: velvet and spots

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Summertime in the wildlife realm represents regrowth. Calf’s and fawns stumbling around their mothers, hides full of juvenile spots, this is the product of the previous falls rutting season. The young are in between feeding off their mothers and learning to fend for themselves. Adult males (bulls or bucks) are regrowing antlers, these antlers are made of mainly soft bone tissue, blood vessels and covered with a sheath of velvet. The antlers will stay in this stage as they regrow from the time they shed their previous years set to when they harden in early fall. Genetics, age, and supplementation all play a factor in the size of the antlers.

Winter moisture plays a vital role in spring supplementation as does summer monsoons with fall forage. As the antlers harden, the males natural instinct drives them to rub their velvet and reveals a bright new set for the year. Rutting activity has the males continuing to rub their antlers on trees and brush, marking their territory and establishing dominance within the herd which darken the color as the rut progresses. Rutting activity produces many fights among the males. Antler’s clash, broken tines, broken bones and occasional death are not uncommon. Broken antlers will remain broken until they shed in spring and will regrow the following summer.

The social stature of deer and elk herds change with the seasons. During summer months “bachelor” herds of bucks and bulls can be seen running together. While doe and cows will be found in big groups with their young. As fall arrives with the crisp morning air, the bachelor herds start breaking off into singles and smaller groups.

Elk in southern New Mexico typically rut from beginning of September through early October. Deer are later, which usually comes early December through January. As cows or doe start coming into heat, more dominant bulls and bucks gather them and form a harem. Satellite bulls or bucks will follow this herd, hoping to find a female that strays.

This month long rut forms the circle of life, producing more young the following year. Battle tested antlers, broken and scarred will shed the following spring and new growth will emerge.

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