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A Deer with Fangs

October 31, 2014

A Deer with Fangs

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Jonathan C. Slaght 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

, Russia Map It


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K Conley
October 31, 2014 at 8:48 am

What a perfect description of this curious creature – I never realized the physical similarity between musk deer and kangaroos until today! And another great photo by Dr. Slaght!

    Jonathan Slaght
    April 23, 2015 at 5:19 pm

    Thanks, Ken! I really appreciate the positive feedback. Can’t take the credit for the photo though–that is one of John Goodrich’s…

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  • Patricia Azlin
    February 4, 2016 at 10:22 pm

    Amazing. I’ve heard of the musk deer, but never imagined they would look so …. Unique?!