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South Andean Deer


The South Andean Deer (Hippocamelus bisulcus) or Huemul, is an endangered species of deer native to the mountains of Argentina and Chile. One of two mid-sized deer of the Hippocamelus genus, the South Andean Deer ranges across the high mountainsides and cold valleys of the Andes. The distribution and habitat, behaviour, and diet of the deer have all been the subject of study. The viability of the small remaining population is an outstanding concern to researchers.

Description

The South Andean Deer is well-adapted to broken, difficult terrain with a stocky build and short legs. A brown to greyish-brown coat tapers to white undersides and a white marked throat; the long, curled hairs of the coat provide protection against cold and moisture. Does are 70 to 80 kg. (154-176 lbs.) and stand 80 cm. (31 in.), while bucks are 90 kg (198 lbs.) and 90 cm (35 in). (Other weight suggestions are lower.) There is no sexual size difference amongst fawns, which are born unspotted.Van Widen, Jasper. Diet and habitat of the huemul (Hippocamelus bisulcus) in Bernardo O Higgins National Park, Chile (2006). THESIS, Department of Science, Technology and Society, University of Utrecht. Retrieved on: 2007-06-07

Sexual dimorphism is notable. Only the bucks have antlers, which are shed each year toward the end of winter. Males also have a distinctive black "face mask", which curves into an elongated heart-shape surrounding a forehead of the principal brown colour. Unusually for a dimorphic ungulate, research has shown South Andean Deer will congregate in mixed-sex groups, and the length of time spent inter-mixing increases with group size. The farther the animals are from rocky slopes the larger the size of observed groups, suggesting predation rates are lowest on slopes and greatest in open areas such as valley bottoms.

Distribution and habitat

The animal ranges across a variety of often difficult habitat. Open periglacial scrubland, low bluffs and other rocky areas, and upland forests and forest-border are principal range types. One study of coastal fjord populations found males and juveniles preferred periglacial grassland; females were mainly found on bluffs, and fawns exclusively so. Gunnera plants were a principal dietary item.

While previously found over much of southwestern South America, the current status of the South Andean Deer is critical. Numbers in Argentina were estimated at 350600, in fragmented groups, as of 2005. Argentinian national authorities have been criticized for calling the species' situation satisfactory, where research shows declining numbers; further research on habitat viability and conservation centers have been urged.

Pressures on Huemul populations include economic activities and invasive species. One study in Argentina's Nahuel Huapi National Park found thirty-two plant items in its diet. The most common of these, the Lenga Beech (Nothofagus pumilio), was also a primary food item of the Red Deer (Cervus elaphus), causing displacement to marginal areas and increased vulnerability for the smaller South Andean Deer. Both decreased reproduction rates and increased morbidity may be affecting the population in Argentina; predation by the Cougar, the South Andean Deer's only natural predator, remains a principal cause of mortality in Argentina.

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article South Andean Deer


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