A Central American red brocket deer in Curi-Cancha, Monteverde, Costa Rica. Photo by David Rodriguez Arias license CC NC SA 2.0 via Flickr

The Central American Red Brocket Deer: Adorable and Endangered

Costa Rica is home to a rather unusual-looking (but very cute) deer that spends its life in the rain forest. That in itself may seem unusual because most of us don’t picture deer living in a tropical rain forest. But that’s exactly what Costa Rica’s beautiful Central American brocket deer (Mazama temama) does.

The Central American red brocket deer is small and has exceptionally large eyes. Photo by Brent Huffman/IUCN Red List of Threatened Species/Ultimate Ungulate

Fast facts about the Central American brocket deer

This tiny adorable deer ranges between 2.3 and 4.3 feet long (the tail adds about another 3.2 to 6 inches at the most) and stands about 2.4 feet high, The Ultimate Ungulate reports. You can also find the white-tailed deer in Costa Rica, but it’s quite large by comparison, at over seven feet (counting the tail).

A Central American red brocket deer doing what it does best: being inconspicuous. Photo by Marilyn Castillo Muñoz license CC NC ND 4.0 via iNaturalist

Like all deer, the brocket is quite shy. Since they mostly live in dense rain forests, though, brocket deer are difficult to see in the wild. However, if you’re hoping to see these beautiful creatures, the best times to look for them is at dawn or dusk, when they forage in meadows.

Brocket deer antlers stay small

See how small the antlers are? That’s about as big as they get. Photo by Josh More license CC NC ND 2.0 via Flickr

Unlike the elaborately branched antlers we see in many deer species, brocket deer antlers rarely reach more than 5.2 inches in length. The likely reason for this is that small antlers don’t get caught in dense vegetation.

They maintain small ranges

This small deer is known for its red fur. Photographer unknown, license CC NC 4.0 via iNaturalist

The typical range size for these deer is about 0.6 miles. They can be found throughout Costa Rica and while they prefer perennial forest, you can also find them in the cloud forest, sub-perennial forest, and lowland dry-forest, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species reports.

They really do prefer largely undisturbed forests however and experts think that this is a response to dealing with predators. Most deer species have good endurance and can outrun a predator. Brocket deer, however, are an exception to this rule and they can be easily overtaken by dogs. Thick vegetation gives these small deer a chance to stand still and hide. If needed, they will run a short distance, then stop and look back to see if the coast is clear.

But what these little deer may lack in endurance they more than make up for in their ability to swim. They have been observed easily crossing rivers more than 328 feet wide.

The brocket deer has many predators

Including the jaguar.

Is this jaguar at the Edinburgh Zoo contemplating its next meal? Photo by William Warby license CC 2.0 via Flickr

The tayra.

The tayra is a large member of the weasel family. Photo by The Next Gen Scientist license CC 2.0 via Flickr

The puma.

A contemplative puma. Photo by Danny Nicholson license CC Attribution ND 2.0 via Flickr

The harpy eagle.

The harpy eagle is beautiful and massively built. Photo by cuatrok77 license CC SA 2.0 via Flickr

And the boa constrictor.

A curled up boa constrictor. Photo by Claude Valette license CC ND 2.0 via Flickr

But brocket deer are in trouble

This deer was photographed near Provincia Puntarenas, Costa Rica. Photo by kmherpkid license CC NC 4.0 via iNaturalist

Populations of these graceful creatures are in decline thanks to habitat fragmentation and degradation. You see, industrialists are using the land and converting it to cattle pasture as well as crops. Natural disasters in the form of wildfires have also taken a toll, sadly. Unfortunately, people also hunt these deer for food and for trophies. As if that isn’t bad enough, A lot of people kill the Central American red brocket deer because they are considered pests due to their fondness for bean crops.

Costa Rica has a good record when it comes to species conservation. However, like every country in Latin America, it’s bedeviled by deforestation as second-growth forests are continually plowed under. For the brocket deer and countless species of other creatures that depend on the rain forest, let’s hope Costa Rica’s government takes appropriate action.

Featured image by David Rodriguez Arias license CC NC SA 2.0 via Flickr

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Written by Megan Colleen

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