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ASK THE DNR: Antler shedding and wildfire safety

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Q. It is not uncommon to find antlers lying on the forest floor in the spring. Why do buck deer, bull moose and other antlered species shed their antlers?

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A. Annual cycles in deer antlers are related to the changing seasons. Deer have adapted their physiology and behavior to respond to seasonal changes, including antler growth and shedding. The environmental cue that regulates antler growth is the amount of day length; the physiological cue is the hormone testosterone. Simply put, the changing day lengths are sensed by the eyes, which send this message via the optic nerve to the pineal gland located at the base of the brain. The declining day length in late fall and early winter causes a decrease in testosterone, which results in antler shedding. The actual process of antler shedding involves the formation of a thin layer of tissue destruction that forms between the antler and the pedicle, called the abscission layer. The degeneration of the bone-to-bone bond between the antler and the pedicle is considered to be the fastest deterioration of living tissue known in the animal kingdom.

— Michelle Carstensen

Carstensen is the DNR’s wildlife health program supervisor.

Q. With the potential for wildfire season this spring, is there anything people can do now to protect their homes and cabins?

A. Now, while the snowpack is still here, burn brush piles. If there is less than 3 inches of snow on the ground, a burning permit is required. Check with a local forestry office.

Late winter is the best time to prune trees. Look at the trees and shrubs within 100 feet surrounding the cabin or house. Eliminate ladder fuels by pruning 6 to 10 feet up from the ground. Thin out evergreen trees so branches are 10 feet apart. Maintain a 10-foot space between the crowns of trees. Clean roof and gutters of any wood any pine needles, leaves or debris. Prune off tree branches touching the house. Move wood piles outside a 30-foot zone surrounding the cabin or house. Make sure the chimney has a spark arrestor.

Info: mndnr.gov/firewise.

— Linda Gormanson

Gormanson is the DNR’s regional Firewise specialist.

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