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What is a Pudu?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2014
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Pudu are rare deer native to South America. They're considered to be threatened species, due to hunting and habitat depletion, and several zoological parks have made an effort to preserve the animals through breeding in captivity. They're also the smallest known members of the deer family; the Northern pudu stands around 1 foot (32 centimeters) tall, and the Southern pudu is only slightly larger.

Most pudu are found in Argentina and Chile. The Northern and the Southern types look largely the same, with glossy reddish brown coats which are spotted with white when they are very young. Like larger deer, pudu are very muscular, with bodies built for springing and jumping, upright convex ears, and stubby tails. Their glossy coats blend in well with their home environment.

Despite their physical similarities, pudu differ from other deer in several ways. For one thing, they vocalize, emitting a sharp barking noise when they are alarmed to alert others in the group. They are also capable of climbing trees, both in search of food and to avoid predators. The animals have also been seen standing on their hind legs to feed, ensuring that they can reach otherwise inaccessible food.

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The diet of these animals consists of grass, leaves, and fallen fruit. They often establish complex networks of runways and trails through the thick underbrush, allowing them to move unseen throughout their range. In the wild, pudu live around eight to 10 years, breeding in the fall to produce litters of twins in the early spring.

Pudu is the name of the genus of these animals, in addition to being used as a common name. Whatever one calls these creatures, they may be forced to rely on the efforts of conservationists to survive, thanks to widespread utilization of resources in South America. Logging and farming in their native range makes it difficult for them to survive, and because the animals are viewed as a source of meat as well, their populations are extremely unstable in some regions.

People who are interested in seeing pudu can check with local zoological parks to see if they have any exhibits with them open to the public. It's often easier to see these animals at conservation parks focused on South American animals, although they can be found in general zoos as well on occasion.

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