Critter of the Week: Mouse Deer

 

CONSERVATION STATUS

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Artiodactyl

Infraorder: Tragulina

Family: Tragulidae

MOUSE DEER RANGE

The mouse deer is neither a mouse nor a deer, it falls into their own family called Tragulidae. Depending on the species, they can weigh anywhere between 4 to 33 pounds. The mouse deer are the smallest of all the ungulates, which are the hooved mammals like cows, deer, and sheep.
Both genders of the mouse deer have fangs but they are more prominent in males. The males will use their fangs to fight each other but luckily, the mouse deer have thick coats and large muscles around their neck and lower back to protect them during combat.
When being chased by a predator, the mouse deer can dive underwater and walk on the bottom of the water for coverage. It can hold its breath for about four minutes and uses nearby reeds or plants to tether itself so it isn’t swept up in the current.

The mouse deer live in burrows dug under the trees that also serve as a favored habitat to pythons. However, the pythons and mouse deer have a mutualistic relationship because dogs will follow the mouse deer to the burrows to hunt them while the python lies in wait to prey on the dogs.

Female mouse deer are known to be continually pregnant. They carry their fawns for about five months. They have the potential to get pregnant again two hours after giving birth.

 

Physical description

Lesser mouse deer can grow up to 18 inches and weigh around 5 pounds. They will usually display a brown coat with black and white markings, and their legs are so thin that they are roughly the diameter of a standard pencil. Both genders have fangs but they are more prominent in males.

Diet

The lesser mouse deer have a solely plant-based diet, which is why they have the four-chambered stomachs to help digest the plants. However, other species of mouse deer like the water mouse deer will occasionally eat insects, crabs, or scavenge fish. 

Reproduction & life span

The lesser mouse deer has a life span of about 12 years with sexual maturity being reached at 5-6 months. Female lesser mouse deer are known to be continually pregnant. They carry their fawn for about five months, and then have the potential to get pregnant again two hours after giving birth. The fawns tend to be hiders and will be weaned for 10-13 weeks.

Distribution & habitat

The lesser mouse deer is native to the lowland tropical forests of Southeast Asia. During the day, the mouse deer preferred areas with dense undergrowth. At night, they are found in drier ridge areas.

Population

There has not been enough research conducted to quantify the lesser mouse deer population. Not only is there a lack of interest in the genus, but the lesser mouse deer is categorized as a Least Concern species.

Relationship with people

Lesser mouse deer do not pose a threat to humans. Some people will keep them as pets, however, it is better if they are left in the wild.