The family of tufted deer at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Prospect Park Zoo has grown considerably in recent years. Gage and Lucy, the zoo’s established deer couple, have produced their third offspring.
The new fawn is the adult pair’s first boy. He is quickly becoming independent and is exploring the lush exhibit on his own. Born on May 18, the young deer proved to be adventurous right from the start. The first day after his birth, he followed Lucy out of the barn into the exhibit, wobbling a bit as he learned to balance on his tiny legs. Visitors were charmed by the tiny deer as he carefully maneuvered over little twigs and rocks and sniffed around the grass and shrubs.
Lucy, an experienced mother, exhibited behaviors common to deer in the wild – she showed her offspring how to hide under a shrub and sit still to avoid predators while she went looking for food. At the zoo, Lucy doesn’t have to travel far for food and there is no fear of predators, but the instinctive behavior is impressive to watch. Keepers encourage natural behaviors and the exhibit is designed so the animals live in an environment similar to what they would experience in the wild.
There are a number of shrubs in the exhibit that provide a perfect hiding place for a tiny tufted deer. Once the spot was selected, Lucy’s new fawn learned to go back to that spot regularly. Many visitors watched the little deer walk carefully to the shrub and disappear; only the wiggling leaves giving away what was underneath.
Tufted deer are native to China and Myanmar. They are thought to be one of the more primitive deer species because the males have tusks – which look like small fangs. This is a characteristic most other deer have long lost through the evolution. Males of the species do have antlers, but they never grow any longer than short nubs which are hidden by tufts of hair.
Young tufted deer grow fast, so visit Lucy and Gage’s newest while he is still an even tinier version of this very unusual deer.