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An Ultimate Ungulate Fact Sheet
Hippocamelus bisulcus
Patagonian huemul
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Classification
 

Kingdom:
Phylum:
Class:
Order:
Suborder:
Family:
Subfamily:
Tribe:
Genus:

Animalia
Chordata
Mammalia
Cetartiodactyla
Ruminantia
Cervidae
Capreolinae
Odocoileini
Hippocamelus

Common name:
Scientific name:
Other names:
Patagonian huemul
Hippocamelus bisulcus
South Andean huemul, Chilean huemul, Huémul des Andes méridionales, Huemul du Chili, Südlicher Andenhirsch, Huemul Patagónico, Ciervo Andino meridional

Physical Characteristics

Head and body length: 140-175 cm
Shoulder height: 80-90 cm
Tail length: 13 cm
Adult weight: 70-100 kg

The coarse coat is generally dark brown, although the color is richer in the summer (dark rusty-brown or coffee-colored) and paler (more greyish) in winter. The undersides are very light in color, and the short tail is white underneath. The outer layer of guard hairs in the coat may be 5-7 cm long in the winter, and 3-4 cm long in summer. Huemuls have relatively short legs which accentuate the hunched back. Male huemul have a dark stripe on the bridge of their nose, which forks in between the eyes and forms a pair of dark eyebrows (females may have this blaze, too). The large ears are sometimes described as "donkey-like". Only males grow antlers, which usually have a single branch. The rear tine is usually longer, growing 30-35 cm from the antler base.

Similar species
  • The taruca (Hippocamelus antisensis) is easily separated from the Patagonian huemul by range in the wild. Physically, taruca tend to be smaller and lighter in color than Patagonian huemul.

Reproduction and Development

Gestation period: Reports vary; probably around 7 months.
Litter size: 1.
Weaning: 4-5 months.
Sexual maturity: As early as 6 months.
Life span: Up to 14 years.

The breeding season is between February and May, with most babies being born in November/December. Unlike many deer, baby huemuls do not have spots but are a solid dark brown color. Females give birth in isolated areas, where the baby can hide safely from predators. Babies lie hidden in such spots while their mothers forage.

Ecology and Behavior

Patagonian huemuls are diurnal, and have well-developed senses of vision, hearing, and smell. In undisturbed areas, they are very tolerant of people, but they may be very shy in areas where they are harassed by people and domestic dogs. They are not believed to be territorial, and males rarely fight. Many vocalizations have been recorded, including grunts and snorts (used during the breeding season) and bleats (made by fawns). When alarmed, huemuls snort and stamp their front legs.

Family group: Solitary or in small mixed groups of 2-5 animals. Groups with multiple adult females are never seen.
Diet: Leaves and tender shoots of shrubs and trees, very rarely grass.
Main Predators: Puma, domestic dogs; foxes, small cats, and birds of prey may hunt young huemuls.

Habitat and Distribution

Patagonian huemuls live in rugged mountainous regions in the southern Andes. Usually they are found at altitudes between 900 and 1,700 m above sea level; they cannot survive in areas with over 30 cm of snow cover. Their preferred habitat includes areas with dense shrubs as well as temperate forest. The approximate range is depicted in the map below.

Range Map
(Redrawn from Diaz, 2000)

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List: Endangered (2008).
CITES Listing: Appendix I (2009).
Threats: Hunting, habitat loss, depredation by domestic dogs, diseases and competition from introduced wildlife and livestock.

The estimated total population is less than 1,500 animals, two-thirds of which live in Chile.

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