This was meant to be a fun photo of a tule elk poking its head above the grass. But, notice anything unusual?
I took this photo Memorial Day weekend, and the elk still has what looks like last year’s antlers. The rest of the bulls were already starting to grow new antlers in March, and they’re now sporting large racks of velvet antlers that will harden in late summer. This bull still has hardened and very worn-looking antlers, which must be a year old.
I couldn’t find any references to this happening with other elk, but there was at least one known case of a deer that didn’t shed. Biologists’ best guess was that it had some kind of endocrine disorder that caused high testosterone year-round. Normally testosterone levels drop in the winter and that prompts the antlers to shed.