The Formosan Sika Deers (台灣梅花鹿) in Kenting are part of a conservation project established by the government in 1984. This Sika Deer species is endemic to Taiwan and were in danger of extinction due to poaching and urbanisation, with the last known wild Sika Deer killed in 1969. Thankfully the rewilding project was successful and there are now up to 1500 Sika Deers living in the wild under the care of the Kenting National Park.
Watching the deers roaming in their natural environment is a fabulous and rewarding experience. The wild Sika Deers are extremely shy and will run away at the first sight of intruders.
Here we have some common questions regarding the adorable Sika Deers.
Formosan Sika Deer Antlers
The antlers of deers are like bones and are generally found growing on the males head. Unlike horns of animals such as bulls, goats or rhinoceros that are permanent, the antlers of deers will fall and regrow every year in a continuous cycle. These antlers function primarily to attract the ladies for mating and are used in fights between the males.
The deer antlers are one of the fastest growing tissues known to man, growing as fast as half an inch (1.27cm) per day. The size of a pair of antler largely depends on age, genetics and nutrition the deer gets.
So what causes the antlers to dis-attach?
With declining testosterone levels, the connection between the pedicles and the antlers wear off. A layer of cells, called the osteoclast, demineralised the pedicles by absorbing calcium from the antlers. Eventually the antlers will drop off or may be knocked off while the deer is savaging, sparring, or even while running or walking. Each deer shed at different times, as will each individual antler.
Can I take the deer antler away if I find one?
Each year during the month of May, the male Formosan Sika Deers shed their antlers. This is the period when we see people combing the Kending National Park for the shed antlers.
Isn’t it amazing to find a good piece of antler as a souvenir? Well, since the Formosan Sika Deers are no longer a protected species in Taiwan, it’s ok to bring back home your prized find.
However if you happen to see a buck with their antlers, observe it from a distance, leave the deer alone until it has shed and moved off. Though it really takes a lot of luck to find one of these brown golds lying around, chances of finding one is higher when you are looking at the right places.
How do the deer antlers grow back?
The males have two soft spots on their skulls call the pedicles. The antlers will grow out again from these pedicles covered by a layer of soft hairy skin called the velvet. The velvet consists of tiny blood vessels bringing oxygen and nutrients to the antlers helping them to grow. As the antlers start regrowing, we will see scratch marks on the tree trucks as the bucks trash their new antlers against the trees to ease their itch.
Sometimes antler growth is affected by the buck getting into fights or is banged onto something. These events will cause abnormality in the antler, resulting in irregular growth of the antler. Furthermore, injury to the animal will also affect antler growth as nutrients are rechanneled to the injured part. Interestingly when the buck breaks its left rear leg, its right antler will likely to grow in an odd manner.