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Deer are the ruminant mammals forming the family Cervidae. Male deer of all species (except the Chinese water deer) and also female reindeer grow and shed new antlers each year. In this they differ from permanently horned animals such as antelope; these are in the same order as deer and may bear a superficial resemblance.
- The musk deer of Asia and water chevrotain of tropical African and Asian forests are not usually regarded as true deer and form their own families, Moschidae and Tragulidae, respectively.
- The word “deer” was originally broad in meaning, but became more specific over time.
- This general sense gave way to the modern sense in English, by the end of the Middle English period around 1500.
- (However, contrary to south European languages, Dama in Latin and daim in French mean “fallow deer” only).
- For most types of deer in modern English usage, the male is called a “buck” and the female is termed a “doe”, but the terms vary with dialect, and especially according to the size of the species.
- The male Red Deer is a “hart”, especially if more than five years old, and the female is a “hind”, especially if three or more years old; both terms can also be used for any species of deer, and were widely so used in the past.
- The majority of large deer species inhabit temperate mixed deciduous forest, mountain mixed coniferous forest, tropical seasonal/dry forest, and savanna habitats around the world.
- Clearing open areas within forests to some extent may actually benefit deer populations by exposing the understory and allowing the types of grasses, weeds, and herbs to grow that deer like to eat.
- Small species of brocket deer and pudús of Central and South America, and muntjacs of Asia generally occupy dense forests and are less often seen in open spaces, with the possible exception of the Indian Muntjac.
- Examples include the caribou that live in Arctic tundra and taiga and moose that inhabit taiga and adjacent areas.
- Huemul Deer of South America’s Andes fill an ecological niche of the ibex or Wild Goat, with the fawns behaving more like goat kids.
- The highest concentration of large deer species in temperate North America lies in the Canadian Rocky Mountain and Columbia Mountain regions between Alberta and British Columbia where all five North American deer species (White-tailed deer, Mule deer, Caribou, Elk, and Moose) can be found.
- This region has several clusters of national parks including Mount Revelstoke National Park, Glacier National Park (Canada), Yoho National Park, and Kootenay National Park on the British Columbia side, and Banff National Park, Jasper National Park, and GlacierNational Park (United States) on the Alberta and Montana sides.
- Indian sambar can be gregarious but are usually solitary or live in smaller herds.
- The Chinese water deer, tufted deer, and muntjac have enlarged upper canine teeth forming sharp tusks, while other species often lack upper canines altogether.
- Mule deer and black-tailed deer, species within the same genus as the white-tailed deer, instead have bifurcated (or branched) antlers—that is, the main beam splits into two, each of which may split into two more.
- Examples include Eucladoceros, and the giant deer Megaloceros, whose antlers stretched to 3.5 metres across.
- The white-tailed deer,, has been confirmed as the sole maintenance host in the Michigan outbreak of bovine tuberculosis which remains a significant barrier to the US nationwide eradication of the disease in livestock.
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