How Do Wolves Help To Determine How Long Elk Keep Their Antlers?

Elk are known for shedding their antlers at multiple points in their lives, usually, after distinct mating periods, times in which they will have put their antlers to good use to fend off competitors in order to mate.

How Do Wolves Help To Determine How Long Elk Keep Their Antlers?

However, researchers in Yellowstone National Park actually discovered some very interesting cases in which elk were keeping their antlers for longer than usual, and they also found that it linked to the large number of wolves that could be found in the same area. 

But what is the strange connection between these animals that are usually so at odds with one another? Let’s find out!

How Do Wolves Link To How Long Elk Keep Their Antlers For?

Research has shown that more elk tend to be killed by wolves just short of the mating period after elk have shed their antlers. This is because, without their antlers, elk could not so easily defend themselves against wolf attacks.

Research has also shown that some elk, located in the Yellowstone National Park have been keeping their antlers for much longer than usual, which struck researchers as very odd.

Research showed that the reason why so many elk were keeping their antlers for so long was that the antlers were being used as weapons by elk to fend off predators like wolves.

This means that the reason why elk have been seen keeping their antlers for longer than usual can be directly linked to wolf attacks in the area. 

Multiple years of research and careful observation of elk have proven that more and more elk are beginning to keep their antlers for much longer, as it significantly increased their odds of surviving attacks from wolves.

It is important for elk to keep their antlers longer considering the fact that elk actually prove to be very preferential prey amongst wolves in Yellowstone National Park, making it entirely necessary for elk to keep their antlers for longer.

Are There Any Downsides To Elk Keeping Their Antlers?

Though a relatively minor downside, elk that keep their antlers for longer will have a much more difficult time securing a suitable mate during the next mating period.

This is because their antlers will have been shed much later, which means that elk that have shed their antlers much earlier on will have larger antlers, and thus will be able to fend off competition more easily.

Will Elks Evolve To Keep Their Antlers Forever?

While it is always difficult to predict how evolution might affect a certain species moving into the future, it could well be that elk slowly evolve defenses against their predators that help them to survive well after the mating period.

However, how this evolution would occur is still very much up in the air.

Who Carried Out The Research Into Elk Antlers?

Matt Metz, a member of The Wildlife Society, initially carried out the research in 2005, upon noticing that some elks in Yellowstone still had their antlers long after they had usually shed them.

Matt was able to make use of many years of vital research into elk and was able to apply his knowledge of wolf biology to determine the strange connection that had yet to be noted. 

To Conclude

The strange link between elks and wolves can be directly correlated to how often elks are targeted by wolves, particularly after mating seasons, when most elk shed their antlers so that they can grow new antlers, ready for the next mating season. 

Research has shown that more and more elk are keeping their antlers for extended periods than ever before, suggesting that eventually elk, within Yellowstone Park, may entirely keep their antlers during periods in which they are usually attacked.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Antlers Bleed When They Shed?

Though it is often rare, occasionally antlers may bleed slightly whenever an elk sheds them.

However, this can easily be linked to cells becoming damaged when the links between the antlers and the elk skull become weakened, which is what allows the antlers to fall.

If the antlers are heavier before they are shed, then it is possible that they may cause more bleeding.

Do Deer Feel Pain In Their Antlers?

Because of the fact that deer use antlers in order to defend themselves or to attack prey, deer antlers actually do not register pain, as there are no nerve endings within them. This means that deer can use their antlers for physical activities without ever suffering any pain.

Do Animals Feel Pain When Shot By Arrow?

Yes. If an animal is shot with an arrow in a particularly sensitive spot, then it most definitely will experience pain.

However, it is possible to shoot numerous animals in specific spots that render the animal instantly unconscious and cause the animal to die instantly, which causes no pain to the animal. 

Mindy Russel
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