Tufted Deer, Elaphodus cephalophus

Tufted Deer, Elaphodus cephalophus

The tufted deer (Elaphodus cephalophus) is the sole member of its genus Elaphodus, and can be found in northeastern areas of Myanmar, although this is questionable and central China, where it is most commonly found. It prefers a habitat in both deciduous and evergreen forests, at elevations of up to 14,763 feet above sea level. It can also be found in semi-cultivated areas, and is often seen in areas where salt licks are common. There are four recognized subspecies, although one subspecies is questionable taxonomically.

The tufted deer resembles its close relative, the muntjac, which lives further south. The tufted deer has longer legs and a longer neck, giving it a sleeker appearance. The fur is short and coarse and will change from chocolate brown in the summer to near black in the winter. The underbelly, tips of the ears, area under the tail, and lips are white in color. It is named for the tuft of fur that appears on its forehead that is shaped like a horseshoe. This tuft can be brown to black in color and reach an average length of 6.7 inches. This deer reaches an average height of up to 38 inches at the shoulder, and a weight between 37 and 110 pounds. Males have antlers, although these are hard to see, and short tusks that protrude from the mouth.

The tufted deer is typically solitary, but it can be found in pairs. It moves about on distinct trails during dawn and dusk, and males guard territories devotedly. It is a timid species that will run at the first sign of danger, flipping its tail and zigzagging. Mating season for this deer occurs between the months of September and December. Males emit loud barking sounds in order to attract females, and after pregnancy of up to six months, a litter of one or two baby tufted deer are born. Sexual maturity is reached at one or two years of age. The typical lifespan of this species in the wild is ten to twelve years, but in captivity, its lifespan is only seven years, due to frequent disturbances by humans.

In 1998, the population of tufted dear was found to be between 300,000 and 500,000, but a decline in these numbers is visible. The main threats to this species include habitat loss, and overhunting. Hunters prefer this deer because it offers a good quality of textile material, and because other animals are illegal to hunt. In China, the tufted deer appears any many protected areas and is provincially protected, but there is no national law protecting it. More information is needed on this species before conservation efforts can be made. The tufted deer appears on the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of “Near Threatened”.

Image Caption: Tufted Deer, Elaphodus cephalophus. Credit: F. Spangenberg/Wikipedia  (CC BY-SA 3.0)