I found these two chewed Whitetail Deer antler sheds a few days ago while hiking the Ouachita National Forest here in Arkansas. They look to be a year or older.
Shed antlers don’t last long here in the national forest. Squirrels, opossums, mice, foxes, coyote, beaver, otter, bear and even other deer will chew on shed antlers when they discover them. Shed Antlers have essential nutrients that animals crave. Calcium and phosphorus are the two main nutrients.
Here is a pair of shed antlers I found in early December that were not chewed on: Whitetail Deer Shed Antler Pair Found Yesterday
Discarded antlers represent a source of calcium, phosphorus and other minerals and are often gnawed upon by small animals, including squirrels, porcupines, rabbits and mice. This is more common among animals inhabiting regions where the soil is deficient in these minerals. Antlers shed in oak forest inhabited by squirrels are rapidly chewed to pieces by them.
Each antler grows from an attachment point on the skull called a pedicle. While an antler is growing, it is covered with highly vascular skin called velvet, which supplies oxygen and nutrients to the growing bone. Once the antler has achieved its full size, the velvet is lost and the antler’s bone dies. This dead bone structure is the mature antler. In most cases, the bone at the base is destroyed by osteoclasts and the antlers fall off at some point.
In most arctic and temperate-zone species, antler growth and shedding is annual, and is controlled by the length of daylight. Although the antlers are regrown each year, their size varies with the age of the animal in many species, increasing annually over several years before reaching maximum size. In tropical species, antlers may be shed at any time of year, and in some species such as the sambar, antlers are shed at different times in the year depending on multiple factors. Some equatorial deer never shed their antlers. (Wikipedia)