South Andean Deer, Hippocamelus bisulcus
The South Andean deer (Hippocamelus bisulcus) is native to Chile and Argentina. Its other common names include the Chilean Guemal and Huemul. It inhabits the Andes, in mountainous areas as well as other hard to reach places, like low bluffs, upland forests, and open periglacial scrubland. Males and females may prefer different areas.
The South Andean deer can be brown or grey-brown in color, with a white underbelly and white-spotted neck. Its fur is shaggy and long, giving it protection against the cold. Males can reach an average weight of 198 pounds, with a height of 35 inches, while females are smaller at 176 pounds and 31 inches in height. Males also differ from females in that they have a black mask shape of fur on the face, and grow horns, which are shed each winter.
Studies have shown that the South Andean deer gathers in groups that contain both males and females. The amount of time that each group spends together depends on the number of individuals within it, with larger groups congregating for more time. The studies also showed that larger groups congregated in more open habitats, with smaller groups appearing in rocky areas. It is thought that, because of this behavior, predation occurs more often in open areas.
The South Andean deer once held a large range throughout southwestern South America, but studies conducted in 2005 show that only 300 to 500 individuals now remain in fragmented habitat. Although these numbers are extremely low, Argentinian national authorities state that they are fine, a topic from which there has been much controversy. In 2006, this deer was named a national monument, and appears on Chile’s Coat of Arms.
The main threats to this deer include invasive species and habitat destruction due to economic growth. It is thought that the invasive species, one of which is a main food source for the red deer, is killing off South Andean deer populations. Despite this, the main cause of mortality in Argentina is the cougar, which hunts the deer often. More information on viable habitat is needed for conservation efforts to begin. The South Andean deer appears on the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of “Endangered.”
Image Caption: South Andean Deer. Credit: magical-world/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)