Glossary of Wildlife Terms
There are a number of terms used to describe wildlife mammals. It is important to know these so you will understand the terms when you are reading about animals, and so you will be able to use the terms correctly when you are talking about the animals.
Antlers: bony structures that grow from short pedestals on the skull of certain ungulates and are shed annually. During their development the antlers are covered with a hairy skin called velvet which has a rich supply of blood vessels and nerves. Antlers grow from the tips rather than the base (like horns). As the season progresses the antlers become ossified or boney. This ossification finally cuts off the blood vessels and nerves killing the skin and making the antler itchy. This causes the animal to rub the antlers which removes the skin and exposes the bony surface which has become shiny by the rubbing. Antlers of mature animals tend to be large and ornate in relation to the animal's body size. Antlers grow during the summer season and are fully developed by the fall. They are used by the males to assert dominance over other males during courtship rituals in the fall. By December many animals start shedding their antlers. Shedding is caused by the reabsorption of some of the basal bone which weakens the joint so that the antler falls off if it is knocked.
Bovids: the common term for the family of animals named Bovidae, which includes hoofed animals that have horns which are never shed and are not branched. Horns are present on both sexes. This group includes the wildlife species bighorn and thinhorn sheep and mountain goat, and the domestic species cattle, sheep and goats.
Browser: an animal that feeds on leaves, twigs or shoots.
Brow tine, tine: projection on an antler.
Cervid: the common term for the family of animals named Cervidae, which includes hoofed mammals that have antlers. They are all ruminants. These include deer, elk, moose, and caribou.
Herbivore, herbivorous: a plant-eating animal.
Horn: a solid, bony core which is part of the animal's skull covered by a sheath of hard fibrous horn. The horn sheath grows from the base or skin at the skull. As new growth is formed the old growth is forced away from the skull. The shape that the horn sheath takes is formed by the inner bony core, which also continues to grow. Horns are never shed but continue to grow throughout the animal's life. Both males and females have horns but may vary in shape or size by sex in some species.
Predator: an animal that hunts other animals for food.
Ruminant: an animal that has a four-chambered stomach. Their method of eating is called rumination; this is a process that permits an animal to forage and ingest food rapidly, then complete the chewing at a later time. When they forage and eat they chew their food and it enters one chamber of the stomach. Later while they are resting, they regurgitate their food, chew it a second time then swallow it again.
Tine: a point or branch of an antler.