We are all used to the fact that if it is a deer, then it must necessarily be with branched horns, which are often hunted by poachers. But the animal world can present surprises, and researchers have long been convinced of this. This can be understood by the example of the water deer, which stands alone in the deer family. So it is called because it usually lives only where there is a lot of water. What is the water deer and what exactly is its unusualness?
Origin of the species and description
Among all the deer species, this species is still little studied.
On there are several reasons for this:
- this is not a very common animal that lives only in a certain region;
- these animals do not belong to a herd species, they usually live alone or in pairs;
- they can only be found in hard-to-reach places , where it is difficult to reach;
- there are not very many such animals left, which also complicates their study.
But although the origin of the water deer is not exactly known, it can be said with certainty that its habitat since ancient times — This is the territory of East China and Korea. In total there are 7 subspecies of this animal. The most common is the Siberian, but the Kashmiri water deer — this is a rarity.
In appearance, the water deer is somewhat reminiscent of an ordinary roe deer. Even with its size, it does not reach any horned deer. There are not very many individuals of this animal left. It is not very easy to see them in wildlife, because they are usually nocturnal. And in the daytime they prefer to rest somewhere in the thickets. What is their peculiarity, why did scientists single out water deer as a separate species?
Appearance and features
Although it is a deer, it still has its own characteristics that are unique to this species:
- absence of a horn on the head;
- the presence of two large fangs;
- small sizes.
The water deer has no horns at all. And this applies to both young individuals and age males and females. But on the other hand, he has two fangs that protrude from under the upper lip. In adults, they can reach up to 8 cm. They are curved, which does not prevent the animal from eating grass. This is the main means of protection against various predators, which are enough in dense thickets.
But you need to pay attention to the fact that fangs are inherent only in males, females do not have them. Scientists have learned to determine the lifespan of these animals not only by the length of the fangs, but also by the degree of their curvature. The water deer can control them using its facial muscles.
Video: Water deer
When there is a process of feeding, they practically hide. But when a deer sees danger, they immediately appear and are a formidable weapon. Thanks to this feature, such an animal received another name — a vampire deer.
There are several main natural characteristics of a water deer:
- body length can be from 80 to 100 cm;
- height does not exceed 50-55 cm;
- body weight is small, usually equal to 12-15 kg;
- the tail is small, you can see it only if you look closely.
The coat is brown-brown, and the neck and belly are lighter . The fur is a bit rough to the touch. Depending on the time of year, its size changes. Usually in the summer the water deer sheds, so the coat becomes short. And for the winter, when it gets cold, the body of the animal is covered with larger and fluffy hair. As for the undercoat, it is practically absent.
The eyes of the water deer are not only large, but also dark. And around them there is, as it were, a ring, which makes them look even larger. Compared to the head, the ears appear large. Thanks to them, the animal hears well, which allows you to determine the danger in time. His legs are not only tall, but also thin. This animal lives no more than 10-12 years. And where can you find it, what territory is usually called its homeland?
Where does the water deer live?
Typically, water deer can be found in East China and Korea. If this is China, then most often we are talking about forest areas north of the Yangtze valley. But recently there was a message that one of the subspecies of the water deer was also found in Afghanistan. We are talking about a very rare Kashmiri species. Although this animal lived here before, it has not appeared since 1948.
Water deer do not like to change their habitat, so we can say that these animals do not migrate. But with the help of man, it appeared on the territory not only of France and Australia, but also of Great Britain. It has taken root well here, although the climate is completely different, not like in Korea. Also, these artiodactyls are often found in zoos. But this is no longer a natural habitat.
It is very important for the water deer that the area where it lives is wet. He likes to be on the banks of rivers and lakes, where there are large thickets. High reed — this is his favorite place. But very often it goes to plowed and sown fields, which causes big problems for farmers.
What does the water deer eat?
Although the water deer looks menacing when it exposes its two fangs, it is still not a predatory animal. It feeds only on plant foods, which are abundant in the Yangtze River Delta. There is a lot of it here at any time of the year. And given that winter in this region does not pose any problems for vegetation, this animal does not try to go anywhere.
Drought does not pose any problems for the water deer. If somewhere on the river bank there is little food, the animal can safely swim to another place where there is more vegetation. There are many small islands covered with vegetation in the Yangtze River Delta. If necessary, the water deer can easily get here.
His favorite treat — it is a succulent grass, as well as young shoots of shrubs. But if there is not enough grass, it can go to the leaves of trees. In large quantities, the water deer eats sedge and reeds. For a variety of dishes, she periodically uses mushrooms.
Apparently, the body of this animal requires some trace elements, as well as protein. Periodically, it also raids cultivated fields where rice grows. It eats everything that comes in its way, not only different weeds, but also cereals. So this animal brings some harm to agriculture.
Character and lifestyle features
Males and females unite only for the duration of the rut, and then disperse again. In nature, it is more convenient for such an animal to live on its own. Moreover, there is a lot of food in the habitat. And there are not so many too dangerous predators here, so you can resist them alone.
But if danger is approaching, most often the water deer shows how it got its name, as it simply hides in a reservoir. These animals swim very well, at one time, without going ashore, they can swim several kilometers. Going to a new place, the deer tries to immediately mark its territory. This means that no one else has the right to enter here.
They mark territories in several ways:
- in males, special glands can be found between the hooves. A liquid is produced there, which has a strong odor;
- in the new territory, the animal tries to immediately walk around the entire perimeter. At the same time, not only a liquid with a smell is released from the hooves, but the deer immediately plucks the grass;
- bites the branches of trees, and then lays them out in different places around the perimeter. The animal necessarily wets the branches with its saliva.
The water deer undertakes all this in order to show — this is his territory, and no one else has the right to enter here. And if a deer nevertheless violates the established border, the owner of this territory, without any hesitation, immediately uses his formidable weapon in the form of fangs.
Social structure and reproduction
The water deer rut begins in winter, in December. This allows the male and female to unite for the «wedding» period. But mating does not occur at the request of the male, but of the female. So it turns out that matriarchy still reigns here. The female makes clicking or whistling sounds. By this, she shows the male that she is now ready to mate.
But the female still needs to be fought for, she needs to be conquered. The thing is that with her clicking she simply invites the male. And how many of them will come running to this call — this is already unknown. They must enter into a tournament among themselves, which turns into a real battle, into a massacre. Only one winner can get such a valuable prize.
The battle is fierce, because each male uses fangs that turn into sharp knives. Each of them tries to rip open the opponent's neck or belly. The vanquished is then left with large bleeding wounds.
Winner and «prize» make up a couple for a while, eat together. The female's pregnancy lasts 6 months. As a result, not one deer may appear, but several. So far, there is no exact confirmed data, but there is oral information from residents living in the habitat of such deer that the offspring can be even 5-6 cubs.
Until a week after birth, they do not show up, hide in the bush or in dense thickets. But most often the deer tries to give birth to them under the shelter of trees. After 7-8 days, the deer already try to follow their mother, begin to learn to eat not only milk, but also young grass.
Water deer's natural enemies
The water deer does not have many natural enemies. And all because this animal runs fast, swims well and knows how to find natural shelters. When it sees danger, it immediately tries, if there is a reservoir nearby, to quickly rush there. Above the water, when a deer swims, you can see only his ears, nostrils and eyes. This enables him to observe where the danger is.
The main enemy of this animal — it's a crested eagle. It attacks not only young, but also adults. It is not difficult for him to cope with a deer, whose weight does not exceed 10-13 kg. The animal has no opportunity to defend itself, as the eagle attacks from above. So he has to flee. But the deer does not sit in the water, waiting for the danger to disappear. He swims or moves along the bottom of the reservoir, if possible, to the place where he can hide.
We are talking about thickets of trees that come close to the reservoir. Under their crown, he will be completely safe. Another natural danger for water deer — it's a drought. But he easily copes with it, as he tries not to go far from rivers and lakes. If necessary, he can swim to another place.
Population and species status
Although the population of water deer is stable, especially if we take into account the Chinese variety, there is still a certain danger of extinction of this animal. And all because under natural conditions it lives only in one region.
Such a deer does not like long journeys. And if because of the drought it was necessary to move to another territory, then again, after the rainy season, it tries to return to its former habitat. Encountering predators on its way, or competitors for the territory, the water deer can show aggression. Or vice versa, show excellent diplomatic skills.
These animals can not only fight, but also talk to each other. They make sounds that are more like barking. They bark not only at other animals, but also at people. The water deer stands out among all its relatives for one more feature — solitary lifestyle. These animals never gather in herds, they are distinguished by their fearfulness. Because of this lifestyle, the animal is still poorly understood.
Water deer conservation
Water the deer is listed as a rare animal in the IUCN Red List. And that means he's under protection. It is forbidden to hunt him. And although this animal can cause damage to agricultural land where various cereals are grown, it should not be killed. Yes, and it is not easy to do this, because it is not only shy, but also very cautious.
In the deer-like family, the water deer is apart. He stands out not only for his appearance, but also for his behavior and lifestyle. Unfortunately, little is known about him. Sometimes the information received is contradictory. But one thing is certain — this habitat and some habits. Due to the small number of individuals that exist in wildlife, it is listed in the Red Book.