Roe deer, the common local species of deer, grow their antlers over winter.
To do this they must first cast off their previous antlers, which they do in autumn.
Here a female roe licks the newly-exposed bone pedicles from which her son’s antlers have just fallen.
Often the bare pedicles are quite blood-stained immediately after casting.
She is obviously a good mother as this licking session went on for some three minutes, as timed by the camera trap in question.
As you know, saliva has antiseptic qualities, which is why dogs will always lick their own wounds.
No doubt this is why this mother was so attentive. Interestingly, I can find no reference to this behaviour in books or on the internet.
This is yet another example of how the use of camera traps is giving us revealing insights into the daily lives and habits of wild and secretive animals.
The fur will now grow over these scars and the new antlers slowly grow under a protective skin of “velvet”.
When the antlers are fully developed in late spring the velvet will dry and crack.
The cleaning process is further aided by the buck rubbing his antlers on branches to rid his crown of velvet.
It is all facinating stuff and most of it goes on out of sight of humans, many of whom do not realise they have such interesting neighbours.
Incidentally, the fact that these animals are never far away when you are out and about is one of the many reasons you should not allow your dog to run wild and out of control in the countryside.
By George Hogg
Hogg Estate Services, Wildlife Management