Pudu are, believe it or not, members of the deer family, the same family to which belong such large animals as elk and caribou. The pudu, however, stands less than two feet tall when fully grown. The heaviest recorded pudu was just 30 pounds. They typically weigh about half of that.
The pudu are native to South America and have two subspecies, the Northern pudu, and the Southern pudu. The Northern pudu live in Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia, while the Southern pudu live in Chile and Argentina. The name pudu is derived from the native Mapudungun, which is spoken by the Mapuche people who live in these areas. They are also known as Chilean mountain goats because of their ability to easily walk on steep mountainsides.
The Northern pudu tends to be larger than their Southern relatives, though not by much. The Northern pudu also lives at lower altitudes. The Southern pudu live in more oxygen-rare regions of the Andes mountains, which may be a contributing factor to their even more diminutive size. Larger animals require more oxygen to breathe and so smaller animals would have a better chance of surviving in high mountain habitats.
Pudu eat leaves, vines, and shrubbery. Their small size can pose a problem, though: how can they eat when their food grows so far above their heads. To make up for this disadvantage, pudu are very careful about where they search for food by scenting the air first to learn where food is growing. This way, they won’t waste energy traveling to a location with limited growing food. If food is too far above their head, they may stand on the sapling to weigh it down and bring the leaves close to the ground to an ideal eating height.
Pudu are solitary animals but do gather to mate. Mothers have a gestation period of seven months, after which time she usually gives birth to a single fawn, though having twins is not unheard of. Pudu fawns weigh only 30 ounces on average at birth. They have reddish-brown fur and Southern pudu fawns also have white stripes on their backs. The young pudu totally rely on their mothers for the first three months of life but tend to stay with her for up to a year.
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