What happens when you mix a vampire and a deer? You end up with a Chinese water deer. Learn about them on this Wildlife Wednesday.
Normally, when people think of deer, they imagine a stately buck with a head full of antlers … or a fumbling fawn with a friend named Flower. Chinese water deer, with their antlerless heads and curved fangs, blow those ideas of “stereotypical” deer out of the water.
Chinese water deer can be found bounding across coastal plains and marshes in its native China and North and South Korea. Bambi-lovers can also spot them in France and the United Kingdom, where they’ve been introduced to the countryside.
While these furry foragers may share with Bambi the name “deer,” they share more differences than they do similarities. Let’s look at what sets these two forest kings (and queens!) apart.
- Unlike Bambi, male water deer don’t grow antlers—as a matter of a fact, water deer are the only species whose males are antlerless.
- Males do, however, sport a rather ravishing pair of upper canines, which protrude from their mouths and can be more than 2 in (5 cm) long.
- Males can also be surprisingly territorial, and will defend their territory against deer of the same sex. Of course, this means there are no heart-moving reunions between father and son going on.
- Members of this species are also quite a bit smaller than Bambi-lovers may expect—they only measure about 20 in (50 cm) at the shoulder and weigh about 29 lbs (13 kg).
Why are they threatened?
Although hunting water deer is illegal in China, it continues there and in North Korea due to a demand for bush meat and for the partially digested milk found in unweaned fawns, which is a traditional medicine to cure children’s indigestion.
Habitat loss is a major concern in eastern China and in North Korea, since large areas have been claimed for agricultural or urban development.