I’ve always liked deer and antelope and other such hoofed creatures. I think this stems from two sources: the book Firebringer, and the computer game Sim Safari. Firebringer is an awesome book by David Clement-Davis, about a herd of deer who have to fight evil deer that take over their herd (it sounds super lame but it’s really not). Sim Safari was a game where you built your own safari and put all sorts of African animals into it – it’s where I learned most of the antelope names I know today. One I did not learn however is the pudu, and that’s what I’m blogging about today.
The reason I never heard about pudus is that they are a South American deer – and only African species were included in Sim Safari. I did find some information about them when looking up small deer – which makes sense, since pudus are the smallest species of deer in the world. They stand 25-45 centimetres at the shoulder, and weighs 3-6 kilograms. And of course, being ridiculously small, the pudu is also probably one of the cutest deer in the world. Here’s a picture to prove it:
Pudus live in rainforests in Chile and Argentina, and prefer areas with bamboo groves and dense underbrush that they can hide in. If I were only a foot tall and living in the big scary rainforest, I’d hide too. Like other deer, pudus eat plants, mainly fruit, vines and tree leaves. Pudus are adept at running through the underbrush, and leap on fallen trees to reach tree leaves. They can also walk across bent over bamboo shoots to reach higher leaves. As someone who can barely walk across a room without falling over, I think that’s pretty impressive. Especially for an animal with hooves.
Throughout most of the year, pudus are solitary animals, with distinct territories. They mark their land with piles of strategically placed dung that warn other pudus away. In the fall (April to May in the Southern Hemisphere), pudus abandon their lonely lives and come together for some love. Male pudus place their heads on the female’s back, and if she is willing, proceed to put his forelegs on her back and then mount her. A single fawn is born after 202-223 days of gestation, and weighs less than a kilogram. At three months old the young pudu is full grown, and they leave their mothers around 8 to 12 months.
Pudus are threatened by a number of things; the most prevalent being habitat destruction, introduced species and domestic dogs. Introduced fallow and roe deer eat the pudu’s food, which the tiny deer can do little about. Domestic dogs spread parasites which pudus are exceptionally sensitive to. Fortunately for the pudu, game preservations are helping populations stabilize. Hopefully with conservation measures we can help this little deer keep being awesome.