Are deer endangered species? Yes! So many deer species are facing the threat of extinction. The following list of endangered deer species sheds more light.
We have over 40 deer species spread across the world. In North America alone, there are six species and over 55 subspecies.
Their large numbers and extensive habitats globally make many people think that these animals can never be endangered. However, this assumption can never be more wrong.
While most of the deer are yet to be considered endangered or threatened species, some fit the category perfectly. In fact, some deer species, like the Irish elk/giant deer, are already extinct.
Many factors like overhunting, global warming, agricultural development, and habitat encroachment are some of the things endangering the existence of these beautiful animals. Today, we explore more on the endangered deer species hoping the world will soon find a solution to revert the trend.
An Overview of Deer Species
Deer are beautiful hoofed ruminants belonging to the family Cervidae. These animals are categorized into two main groups, namely, the Cervinae and the Capreolinae.
The Cervinae group includes the muntjac, red deer, elk, chital, and fallow deer. The Capreolinae group, on the other hand, consists of reindeer, mule deer, moose, roe deer, etc.
These animals are hunters’ favorite in many parts of the world. Deer are hunted as a source of food, as well as for fun. Many deer shed their antlers annually, but some exceptions, like Chinese water deer, don’t have antlers.
While there are over 40 species of deer in the world, these six species live in North America:
1. Whitetail Deer/Virginia Deer
From southern Canada to most parts of the USA, you’ll find the whitetail deer (Odocoileus virginianus) grazing in the grass plains and woods. The species is quite adaptable, making it fit in numerous environments across the two countries and the rest of the world.
In North America, the species is widely distributed east of the Rocky Mountains as well as in southwestern Arizona and most of Mexico, aside from Lower California.
2. Mule Deer
The mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) borrows its name from the mule. The two animals share distinctively large ears hence the name mule deer. Mule deer species inhabit Northwest USA preferring to live in the rocky region of the country.
The Caribou, also known as the Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), are primarily found in the Arctic tundra of North America. But these beautiful creatures are also spread across Europe and Asia.
Caribou have sedentary and migratory groups, with herd sizes varying from one geographical area to the other.
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When you want to hunt some enormous deer with impressive antlers, think of adding the moose (Alces alces) to your list. It’s the largest deer in North America that enjoys inhabiting areas with extensive forest cover in Canada and the USA.
5. Red Brocket Deer
There’s a reason you might not have heard about the Brocket deer (Mazama gouazoubira) species before. It’s a notoriously shy and nocturnal mammal that prefers inhabiting dense forest areas that offer lots of coverage.
It is the least common type of deer in North America, spreading just up to the Yucatan Peninsula.
Elk (Cervus canadensis) is another of the largest deer species in the world. This deer species is common in western parts of North America in areas with a lot of mountain landscapes.
During summer, they appear reddish-brown in color and turn dark brown when winter comes.
Hunting Deer in North America
Many hunters are always looking for deer during hunting season for sport or meat. Deer meat is a delicacy in many homes and is known as venison. It’s a good source of natural protein and comes with loads of other nutritional benefits.
In the US, hunters go after whitetail deer and mule deer. However, you need to hunt during the good season and have a permit from state governments. Each state has rules and regulations that each hunter must respect when hunting.
Usually, the Department of Natural Resources or Department of Fish and Wildlife oversees these regulations and is responsible for licensing hunters. Hunting off or on the season without a license is an offense. If guilty, you end up paying a fine ranging from $250 to $2000 or spending a year in jail.
Also, it’s worth noting that each state has particular laws when it comes to hunting deer. Some, like Kentucky, don’t permit hunting deer without antlers. Others have specific seasons for hunting with bow and arrow vs. firearms.
Thanks to strict overseeing in many parts of the country, illegal hunting is kept at a minimum. But it’s worth noting that no one is permitted to hunt endangered deer species.
Most Endangered Dear Species
Are Deer Endangered Species?
As noted earlier, some deer species feature on the endangered list. But, because deer are so many in North America, many people don’t consider them at risk.
Here are the most endangered deer species in the world:
1. Chinese Water Deer
First on the list are the Chinese water deer endangered species. They are divided into two subspecies, Chinese and Korean water deer, native to these two countries, respectively.
Chinese water dear is noticeably different from other deer in the Cervidae family as it lacks antlers. Instead, it has two protruding tusks that give it a vampirish appearance. The tusks grow long and can reach 2 inches.
Although the endangered deer species are native to South Korea and China, small populations are present in the United Kingdom and France. Initially, the deer were introduced to the UK and France as zoo animals, but escapees have managed to reproduce in the wild.
Unlike other deer that enjoy moving in herds, the Chinese water deer prefers a solitary life except during the mating season.
Usually, they enjoy feeding on reeds and grasses. However, they also eat vegetables and grains when they come across some.
Water Deer Reproduction
The rutting season for the endangered deer species begins in November and lasts up to December. During this time, bucks use their tasks to compete for mating rights.
A female gestation period can last 170 to 210 days. One interesting fact is that a female water deer can give birth to up to seven calves. However, the norm is to bear two or three young ones.
The young wean as early as two months and are fully grown by the 8th month after birth.
Why is the Chinese Deer Endangered?
The Chinese water deer is on the list of endangered deer species for a good reason. Around the world, only about 10000 of these beautiful creatures remain in the wild.
The main reason for this declining population is hunting, which has led to its classification under ‘Vulnerable’ animals.
See Related: Most Endangered Amphibians
2. Roe Deer
Another great example of an endangered deer species is the Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus). It mainly inhabits different countries in Europe and is also present in the Northern parts of Iran and Iraq. In terms of subspecies, there are two types of Roe dear featured on the endangered deer species list– the European roe deer and the Siberian roe deer.
An interesting fact to note about these deer species is that they wear different coats depending on the season. While in winter, they have a greyish brown coat, during summer, it changes to reddish-brown. And, unlike other deer species with more giant antlers, the roebuck has small ones that are larger at the base, with a distinct three-tined shape.
Noticeably, it has a short tail and enjoys living at the edge of the forest for protection. The good news is that it’s an adaptive species that can thrive with just a little care, despite making it onto the endangered deer species list.
Usually, the deer’s diet consists of heather, ferns, and acorns during winter, and ash, wild rose, and bramble, in summer.
Roe Deer Reproduction
Early summer marks the start of the rutting season for roe deer, where bucks engage in fights over females. However, mating usually takes place in autumn.
The female gestation period lasts up to 10 months, after which they give birth to an average of 2 fawns. They grow up fast, and female ones can start reproducing at six months old.
Is the Roe Deer Endangered?
Roe deer are known for having some of the sweetest venison among deer species in the world. For that reason, they are heavily hunted.
3. Blackbuck Deer
Perhaps you know the blackbuck deer (Antilope cervicapra) by its other name, Indian antelope. The species is native to Nepal and India, living in areas with light forests or plenty of grasses.
One distinctive feature that makes it a sight to see is the bucks’ ringed longhorns. Additionally, some females are known to grow smaller horns.
The male has outer parts of the legs that are brownish to black, while the back is white. As for the female, they have an almost tan-yellowish coat similar to fawns. This species walks around in small herds of females, fawns, and males, with one herd of females having one male.
Originally, the deer lived in parts of Pakistan and Bangladesh, but it’s since been extinct there, making it appear in the list of endangered deer species. As an herbivore, its diet consists of grasses, but it can also browse on an acacia tree.
Blackbuck Deer Reproduction
Female blackbucks are ready to mate at eight months old but will do so when they reach two years. Rutting occurs twice a year, from March to April and August to October.
At this time, males get excessively territorial and engage in constant battles to secure mating rights. Once a female is pregnant, gestation goes on for six months, giving birth to 1 fawn only.
Is the Blackbuck Deer Endangered?
The blackbuck is part of the endangered deer species list because of excess hunting in most parts of India and Nepal.
The increasing need for farmland led to encroachment of their natural habitats leading to dwindling numbers. Now there are only about 25000 that live in protected habitats.
See related: Important Pros and Cons of Culling Animals
4. Key Deer
The only place in the world you can find the Key deer (Odocoileus virginianus clavium) in the wild is the Florida Keys, hence their name. This is a small Archipelago just 5 feet above sea level off the south coast of Florida.
They were mostly found in the National Key Deer Refuge. But they are now in the South Florida Big Pine Key and small surrounding islands from the Sugarloaf key to Bahia Honda Key.
Key deer is the smallest subspecies of the Northern White-tailed deer. It has a reddish-brown coat and enjoys swimming from one island to another. Males grow antlers distinctive to deer species and drop them in February.
Key deer eat a whole host of plant species that grow in the Florida Keys habitat, from Mangroves and pine forests to freshwater wetlands. Their primary diet is thatch palm berries and mangrove trees.
According to the National Wildlife Federation, their breeding begins in the fall and winter. Males became pretty aggressive with other males as they compete for the same female. They charge each other and lock antlers until one backs down and flees, leaving the victor to mate with the female.
Key Deer Reproduction
Late fall and early winter mark the start of rutting season for Key deer, with mating happening in October. The females will carry the pregnancy for seven months. And it gives birth to at least one fawn per year.
After three months, the fawns wean and start eating plants. Female fawns stay with their mothers for two years, while males only stick around for one year.
Are Key Deer Endangered?
Yes, the Key deer falls under the Endangered Species Act in the US. Now there are less than 1000 deer left in the wild.
Key deer are one of the few species that enjoy living near humans. You’ll often find Key deer foraging on roadsides and yards and approaching slow-moving vehicles and people for edibles.
Feeding key deer reduces their fear of humans. Thus humans are one of the biggest threats to Key deer.
And this is why. It exposes them to illegal feeding risks, increasing the spread of parasites and diseases. Also, it makes them more vulnerable to hunting and car accidents.
According to US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Key deer population is considered stable as of now. However, it has a very delicate balance with nature and thus remains listed in the federally endangered species status. This conservation status helps protect them from becoming extinct in the near future.
See Related: Endangered vs Threatened vs Extinct
5. Sika Deer
Sika deer (Cervus Nippon) is also known as the Japanese or Spotted deer. They are native to Eastern Asia regions but also have a presence in Western countries. Some of these western countries include New Zealand, the USA, Denmark, and Ireland.
The deer species has a unique coat with different color variations from chestnut brown to reddish to grayish. But, you notice that the chin and underparts have a whitish color. Males are bigger than females and have long erect antlers that can reach 2.7 inches.
Typically, they enjoy living in areas with forests but can adapt to marshlands and grasslands. Their diet consists of leaves and grasses, which they eat at night. One fact about them is they are expert swimmers and will use water bodies to get away from predators.
In terms of living arrangements, males are solitary, while females can stay in groups of up to 3, taking care of fawns.
Sika Deer Reproduction
Male and female Sika deer start mating from September to October. Once pregnant, the gestation period lasts 217 days, after which a female births one fawn. Unlike other deer that wean fawns at 2 or 3 months old, Sika fawns suckle until they’re ten months old.
Why is Sika Deer Endangered?
Not all Sika are on the endangered deer species list. Five subspecies are listed, including:
- North China Sika deer
- Shansi Sika deer
- South China Sika deer
- Formosan Sika deer
- Ryukyu Sika deer
The main reason is excessive hunting for food and sport in their natural habitats.
See Related: Types of Sharks Around the World
6. Musk Deer
Musk deer (Moschus moschiferus) are shy deer that enjoy living a solitary life out in the wild. It thrives in cold areas inhabiting the Siberian and Himalayan regions of Asia.
The deer joins a category of Cervidae deer that don’t have antlers. Also, it’s interesting to note that this is the only deer species with a gall bladder.
In terms of coat color, the Musk deer has long, brittle hair that’s grayish brown. Males have two long protruding teeth that they use as weapons during rutting. Their diet consists of leaves, young shoots, and bark from various trees.
Musk Deer Reproduction
November marks the beginning of Musk deer mating that lasts up to January. However, some females mate later in March. Afterward, they carry a pregnancy for up to 195 days giving birth to 1 or 2 fawns. Fawns wean at two months and stay with their mothers for two years.
Why is Musk Deer Endangered?
Poaching remains the number one issue for declining musk deer populations in their natural habitats. Most poachers engage in the illegal trade of musk deer pods found in bucks.
These excrete a robust natural scent, and the only way to get them out of the musk deer is to kill it.
Are Albino Deer Endangered?
Albino deer are a sight to behold but aren’t among endangered deer species. Most people refer to them as white deer, and they are exceedingly rare to spot out in the wild. The deer aren’t a specific species. They are the common deer species that have albinism.
Despite being rare, they aren’t endangered because it’s hard to spot them in the wild. A better way to understand this is that, for every 30,000 deer, you find one white deer.