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Aging and mature antlers of a red deer stag cervus elaphus elaphus in a zoological garden

Aging and mature antlers of a red deer stag cervus elaphus elaphus in a zoological garden

Zeitschrift fuer Jagdwissenschaft 29(2): 69-74

A red deer stag at the beginning of its 14th yr showed the 1st signs of retraction in its antlers, in that its right antler terminated in a fork instead of a crown; it was a descendant from the South Germany population, having been born at Nurenberg Zoo and kept at Hannover [West Germany]. In the next year, both antlers ended in a fork. In its 16th yr and in the following years, the stag developed rudimentary antlers, but the reduction of neither weight nor length was regular from year to year. After producing only a short undivided spike, in the following year it produced somewhat longer beams with strong brow tines. Also the weight of the rudimentary antler beams did not decline at a steady rate in consecutive years. The first 2 heads which were reduced from crown tops to forks were cast (earlier than usual for this stag) in Feb.; he cast the more sharply reduced heads in the following years in March when he had previously cast his best heads. The antlers produced in old age remained short because their growth ended at the beginning of May; ossification of the short beams proceeded quickly. As in former years, the stag cleaned the velvet from the reduced antlers at the beginning of Aug. The dates of casting the antlers are given. From its 16th yr, the stag increasingly showed arthritic changes in the leg joints, especially the hind legs. The same developments had been seen previously at Hannover Zoo in other cervidae of the same age and also in antelopes and in very old horses. The muscles of the legs, again especially those of the hind legs, were reduced. The stag developed a rolling gait and became less mobile. At each rutting time the stag was aggressive towards the keepers and fertilized females to its 18th yr, though not in its last year. On the morning of May 18th, 12 days before completing its 19th yr, the stag could not rise to its feet and was euthanized. Its weight was 154 kg. The incisors and canine teeth of its lower jaw were worn to the roots, similar to the canines of the upper jaw. The premolars and the molars of both upper and lower jaws were worn down to the gums to such as extent that the stag was unable to chew grass or hay. In its last 2 yr the stag had eaten only soft foodstuff. No sign of indigestion was observed. Similar wearing of the teeth, especially of the premolars and molars, has been seen repeatedly at Hannover Zoo among antelope of a similar age.

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