Have you heard of the Pampas Deer? This unique species of deer live in the grasslands of South America. They were once highly sought after for their attractive pelts but are now considered a threatened species due to overhunting and habitat loss. Keep reading to learn all about the Pampas Deer including where they live, what they eat, some of their history, and what’s threatening them today.
If you want to impress your friends, the scientific name for the Pampas Deer species is Ozotoceros Bezoarticus, sometimes called O. Bezoarticus for short.
These deer live in Portuguese and Spanish-speaking countries where they have their own names for the deer in their own languages. In Portuguese, they’re called Veado-campeiro. In Spanish, they’re known as Gama Venado or Venado de Las Pampas, which means Deer of the Pampas.
The Pampas is an area of low-lying grasslands in South America where many of these deer live.
What do They Look Like?
Pampas Deer are light brown to grayish in color. Their fur often has a reddish or yellowish tint to it. Their face, tail, and top of the head are slightly darker in color. They have white tufts on their chest, undersides, inside the ears, and around their eyes. When they lift their tail, you can see the underside of the tail is white as well.
The color of their coat doesn’t change noticeably from summer to winter and there is no difference in fur color between adult males and adult females.
Like in other deer species, only males have antlers. The antlers are slender with up to three tines on each side. Males shed their antlers each winter and new antlers begin growing immediately.
How Big are They?
The Pampas is a medium-sized deer species with a slender build.
They’re usually around three and a half to four and a half feet tall when fully grown. Their shoulder height is about twenty-three to twenty-seven inches tall.
Males are somewhat larger than females though the difference isn’t very big, only a couple of inches and a few pounds.
For example, the shoulder height in females is usually between twenty-three to twenty-five inches and for males, it’s twenty-five to twenty-seven inches. Males weigh about ninety pounds on average and females are usually around eighty pounds.
Population and Lifespan
There are estimated to be about 20,000-80,000 Pampas Deer currently living.
In the wild, Pampas Deer usually live around twelve years. In captivity, they can live for longer, often more like twenty years.
Where do they Live?
Pampas deer are native only to South America. They live in lowland areas in the Eastern and central parts of the continent, away from the Andes mountains in the West.
They’re found in several different countries including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. The highest population is in Brazil, which isn’t surprising since Brazil covers a much larger area than some of the other countries where Pampas Deer live.
Their natural habitat is grasslands at low elevations. Sometimes they live in very tall grass and sometimes in areas with shorter grass. In some grasslands the grass is so tall it can completely cover a fully grown deer when standing.
The deer live in and around hills, flatlands, estuaries, and wide-open grassy areas. Some habitats have annual flooding and other areas where they live are dry year-round.
What do they Eat?
Pampas Deer are herbivores which means their diet consists completely of plants. They eat new green growth, twigs, shrubs, grass, herbs, leaves, and other plants.
Pampas Deer Behavior
They are social animals, preferring to live in groups rather than alone. In the wild, groups are usually around two to six deer. Groups can sometimes be larger if there are enough natural resources like food and water available to support a larger group, but it’s rare to see groups larger than five or six.
Adult deer often travel between groups rather than staying in the same group all the time. This is especially true for adult males. In large grassy areas, several groups may congregate together.
Here’s another fun fact to impress your friends with: A group of pampas deer is called a herd, gang, or mob.
Interactions with People and Livestock
Pampas Deer sometimes compete with livestock for food and other resources in areas where people live. This can be an annoyance for farmers who are trying to grow crops that the deer want to eat, or if the deer are eating off the grazing land they want their animals to use.
If there are a lot of other animals like cows and sheep grazing in a certain area, the deer will sometimes move on to other areas where they don’t have to compete with livestock for food.
Pampas Deer show dominance by standing tall and keeping their heads up. They try to show their side and move slowly in a determined and deliberate fashion.
They don’t defend territory or mates but males may challenge each other, especially during mating season. They do this by rubbing their antlers on plants or the ground. Sometimes, similarly sized males will fight over a female.
Mating and Reproduction
The mating season for Pampas Deer changes depending on where they live. For example, in Argentina, they mate between December and February. In Uruguay, mating happens from February to April.
Pampas Deer display submissive mating behavior, which is unusual for deer. Both deer will show interest in mating by laying down on the ground. Males may follow females around for a while or make a buzzing sound.
When they are ready to give birth, female deer separate themselves from the rest of the group and give birth alone.
Fawns are usually born between September-November which is early to mid-spring in the Southern hemisphere where they live. Gestation lasts for just over seven months.
When first born, the fawns have reddish brown fur with creamy white spots. The spots go away after about two months.
Fawns stay with their mothers for at least the first year of life. Around one year old both males and females reach full maturity and are ready to reproduce.
Historically, Pampas Deer have been used for food, their pelts, and medicinal purposes.
Native Americans took stomach stones from the deer and used them to cure poisoning, snakebites, and other ailments.
In the 1800s both European settlers and Native Americans hunted Pampas Deer by the millions. Trading pelts was a lucrative business and this led to a massive amount of deer being hunted. From 1860 to 1870, two million pelts were exported to Europe through the Buenos Aires port alone.
This overhunting led to a steep decline in wild populations. Hunting went on unregulated and more and more people continued to settle in South America bringing along livestock, farming, and industry. The influx of people took away their habitat and populations continued to decline.
When settlers came they not only disrupted the habitat of Pampas Deer, but they also brought diseases that spread from people and livestock to the deer. This had a negative effect on their population as well.
The Pampas Deer is currently considered a threatened species. This means that they have a strong likelihood of becoming endangered in the near future.
Their population is declining rather than holding steady or increasing. If something doesn’t change, it’s likely that the species will go extinct.
This is concerning to environmentalists because a healthy deer population supports a healthy grassland ecosystem. If there are not enough deer to keep the South American grasslands healthy and balanced, many other species could become threatened as well.
What’s Threatening the Pampas Deer Population?
There are many threats to Pampas Deer. The biggest are overhunting, poaching, and habitat loss.
As I mentioned earlier, hundreds of years ago so many Pampas Deer were hunted for their meat and pelts that the population sharply decreased. Because of habitat loss and continued hunting, the population was never able to recover.
People still hunt Pampas Deer today, even in protected areas.
With people and livestock using so much land for living, working, and farming, there are fewer areas for Pampas Deer to live. If the area where they live cannot support more deer, birth rates are lower and the population declines.
Hunting Pampas Deer
Pampas Deer are protected in Argentina so hunting them there isn’t allowed.
It is possible to hunt them in other parts of South America but you may want to consider the threatened status of these deer when you’re deciding whether or not to hunt them.
Wrapping up Pampas Deer
As an integral part of the ecosystem, Pampas Deer have an important role to play. Overhunting in the past has made them less available to hunt today, though it is still possible to do so in some areas. To learn more about other types of deer, check out our other deer posts.