On Monday, the recent arrival of a pudú, the world’s smallest deer, was announced at the Wildlife Conservation Society Queens Zoo in Flushing, New York. The doe was born thousands of miles from her homeland, where the pudú roam on the slopes of the Andes Mountain Range in Chile and are also known as the “Chilean mountain goat.”
“Pudú” is derived from the language of the Mapuche people of the Chilean region and translates to “the people of southern Chile.”
Deer, with their big eyes and regal posture, are already alluring enough as it is. Add to this the pudú’s diminutive size and scruffy fur, and you have the makings of a Disney movie.
The pudú born in Flushing is an adorable endangered southern pudú. The southern pudús are slightly larger than their cousins, the northern pudú. According to a press release from the zoo, the unnamed doe weighed in at just a pound when she was born on May 3, but could reach 20 pounds as an adult. The fawn is still nursing, but will soon be able to eat fresh leaves, grain, carrots, kale, and hay.
Besides their small size, the pudú are unusual in that they bark at any signs of danger and can climb over fallen trees.
According to a press release:
Although small in stature, only 12 to 14 inches at the shoulder, pudú are excellent jumpers, sprinters, and climbers,” the press release reads. “What the pudú lacks in size, it makes up in strategy. When chased, pudú run in a zig-zag pattern to escape predation.”
The Wildlife Conservation Society runs the zoo. Scientists there are working to help preserve the deer’s native South American habitats.
What are other characteristics of pudús?
Pudús have stocky frames supported by four short and slender legs. They are 32 to 44 centimeters (13 to 17 in) high at the shoulder and up to 85 centimeters (33 in) in length. Pudús normally weigh up to 12 kilograms (26 lb), but the highest recorded weight of a pudú is 13.4 kilograms (30 lb). Pudús have small, black eyes, black noses, and rounded ears with lengths of 7.5 to 8 centimeters.
Sexual dimorphism (visual differences between the sexes) in the species includes an absence of antlers in females. Males have short, spiked antlers that are not forked, as seen in most species of deer. The antlers, which are shed annually, can extend from 6.5 to 7.5 centimeters (2.6 to 3.0 in) in length. They protrude from between the ears.
Large preorbital glands are also on the head. When measured without hair, pudús have small hooves, dewclaws, and a short tail about 4 to 4.5 centimeters (1.6 to 1.8 in) in length. Coat coloration varies with season, gender, and individual genes.
The fur is long and stiff and is typically pressed close to the body. It has a reddish brown to dark brown hue. With aged pudús, their neck and shoulders turn a dark gray-brown in the winter.
The endangered pudú, the world’s smallest deer, born at the Wildlife Conservation Society Queens Zoo in Flushing, New York, is a living example of how much diversity can exist within one species.
It’s pretty darn cute, too.
Written by: Douglas Cobb