Gallery 8: Rutting Season
Fall has arrived in Waterton Lakes National Park and that means it's mating season for the park's ungulates.
Each year, male deer, elk and moose grow a new set of antlers over the summer months. While they are growing, the antlers are covered in a soft protective velvet, full of blood vessels that support the rapid growth. When the antlers are finished growing in the late summer, the velvet sheds, leaving the shiny smooth antler exposed.
During the rut, the males show off their impressive new antlers to the females, in hopes of winning their favour.
The antlers are also used in the occasional sparring contest this time of year, but most dominance contests are actually won through ritualized behaviours like posturing and vocalizing rather than fighting.
A drop in testosterone levels after the breeding season causes the antlers to drop off. This usually occurs in early winter.
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