I didn’t follow all of the links and maybe some of them mention this, but I have read that rodents use shed antlers as a source of calcium. I’d think that they are also a likely source of phosphorous.
Knowing that mineral intake is crucial to human health, I’d also think that it is crucial to the health of mammals in general.
John Kricher’s “A Neotropical Companion” talks about recycling minerals in an ecosystem. There are a finite number of mineral molecules and decaying leaves, etc. release the minerals into the soil to be used by the next generation of plants for energy and structure.
It would be an interesting study to see if seeding some winter grounds, where sheds are aggressively collected, with calcium carbonate or calcium phosphate made any difference to the rodent populations.
I know that large mammals are easier to argue for than rodents, but seeing a K-Rat or Deermouse is a lot more exciting to me than seeing another deer.
Very interesting points. In fact, Canada prohibits collecting antlers in national parks so that they provide these nutrients.
I have not seen studies so this is anecdotal only…I think in the eastern forest, a lot of antlers are not found. In the western US, I wonder how much rodents like k-rats or even deer mice actually eat the antlers. I have often found antlers in the summer or ones that are obviously a year old — with not so much as a bite mark. This despite being found in areas with heavy rodent populations. On the flip side, in Pennsylvania it is common to find antlers with gnaw marks (I suspect that porcupines are the primary feeders). It would be an interesting study in any case — to see if collecting sheds impacts small rodent populations. Hope you’re well!