October 31, 2014
A Deer with Fangs
- as seen by -Jonathan C. Slaght
The Siberian musk deer is one of those animals that seems improbable when you first hear about it. These creatures are diminutive—an adult weighs little more than a cocker spaniel—and with their large ears, perpetually-stooped posture, and massive hind legs, they can look more like kangaroos than deer. But all similarities stop at the fangs.
Male musk deer do not have antlers as most other deer species do; rather they have elongated canine teeth that protrude like tusks from the deer’s mouth. It is not just the fangs that make these musk deer unique; males also contain a musk gland which secretes a fluid used in perfumes and traditional Chinese medicine. Ounce for ounce, this fluid is more valuable than gold, and musk deer are consequently targeted by poachers with fastidious diligence. The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Russia Program has embarked on a multi-year study to learn more about musk deer and find ways to curb the poaching that is leading this endearing animal towards extinction.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For October, we at Wild View are getting in the spirit of Halloween. We’re celebrating nature that often elicits alarm. The animals that creep and crawl. The full moons that brighten night skies. The bats, the vultures, the snakes. Swallow your anxiety and join us. Fear not, it’s actually quite amazing.
Canon Rebel xti