Chinese Water Deer

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The Chinese water deer is a tiny, shy creature, little bigger than a large rabbit. It gets its name from its habitat of damp marshes and reed beds in China and Korea. The Chinese water deer has a pale reddish brown coat that darkens to deep brown during the winter.  unlike other deer, the male does not have antlers. Instead, it canine teeth grow into long tusks that c an inflict a slashing wound when used against a rival male.

Habits: The Chinese water deer lives in a small, close knit group most of the year, except during the mating season, Each group is composed of males. females, and fawns of all ages. Shy and difficult to spot in the wild, it prefers to live close to rivers and steams among long, protective reeds and grasses. The deer  has well developed senses of sight, smell, and hearing, which give it early warning of danger. When alarmed it runs immediately for cover, or runs a short distance and then flattens itself against the ground.

Breeding: The breeding season lasts from autumn to early winter. The male deer competes for the attention of the mature females, fighting fiercely for the chance to mate.  The fights are long and bloody, since the  males slash at each other with their tusks. These tucks can inflict serious wounds that are often deep, though rarely fatal.  The female gives birth to four or five fawns, and as many as seven in May or Early June. Other species of deer have only one or two.  The fawns are able to stand and walk after birth, yet they stay hidden in long grass or reeds for he first few weeks, emerging only when the female returns to suckle them. They remain with the group for several years.

Food & Feeding: The Chinese water deer spends much of it day grazing on grass, which forms most of its diet. The deer also eats young leaves and shoots of a variety of plants.  All the members of the group feed in the same area, sharing the job of keeping watch for predators.  There are seasonal changes in the deer's diet, especially during winter when supplies of grass are scarce and it eats all kinds of green vegetation as well as seeds and berries.

Chinese Water Deer & Man: The Chinese water deer has been bred in captivity since 1873. Today it is an attraction at zoos and wildlife parks all over the world, because of its tiny size and unusual tucks.  In england, several small groups of Chinese water deer escaped from private parks and became established in the wild.  Their ability to keep out of sight has made it difficult to estimate tier numbers and how they have spread.  This deer is highly respected in China and Korea since it is believed to possess magical qualities.

Key Facts: Sizes:
Height to shoulder: Male, under 2 ft. Female, smaller at 1 1/2 ft
Weight: Male up to 30 lb. Female up to 24 lb.

Breeding:
Sexual maturity: Male, 2 years or more. Female, 1 year
Mating Season: Autumn and early winter.
Gestation: 176 days
Litter size: Up to 7.

Related Species: Related to the muntjac deer and the tufted deer, both of which have tusks and small antlers.
Distribution: Swamps, marshy reed beds, and open grassland in China and Korea; some populations live in hilly areas.
Conservation: The Chinese water deer appears to be holding its own throughout its range since it is too small and shy to be hunted commercially for its meat or skin.  It has ben bred in captivity since the late nineteenth century.

Features of the Chinese Water Deer:
Scent glands: Situated on either side of the groin. Smell is an important way of gaining information about other water deer.
Head: Long and slender with large eyes and ears.
Body: Small and lithe with red brown coat that turns darker in winter.
Female: Slightly smaller than male; does not have tusks.
Foal: The fawn has distinctive white markings on its back.

Did you know?
The Chinese water deer is the only deer that has no antlers. Another deer, the muntjac, has tusks as well as a pair of short antlers.
The female Chinese water deer has four teats and has to feed her fawns in rotation. Most other deer species have two teats.
In China, the water deer is though to have magical powers because it disappears easily into cover. In Korea, the deer's bite is believed to be fatal.

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