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As you surely know, the deer is a very agile animal. It can disappear almost instantly from your sight and run quicker than most predators. But how good are deer in water? Can deer actually swim? And if they can, are they good swimmers? Can they swim longer distances? Spend just a few minutes on this article and you will find some really interesting facts about deer and whether they can and like to swim.
Can deer swim?
As I said, deer are extremely fast on land, but they are usually just as fast in water as well.
Yes, deer, in general, are great swimmers and love to swim. Generally, deer will swim for really basic reasons like migration or in search of food. They would also swim to evade different threats to their survival like land-bound predators.
Most deer can reach speeds of 15 mph while in water. They can move fast through bodies of water at very high speeds with help from their powerful thin legs and lean bodies.
Among the things that make them really great swimmers are their strong hooves, toes, and leg muscles. Lacking any of these strong characteristics would make them lose a lot of their swimming capabilities.
As you already know, most deer live on land, even though they are considered superior swimmers. There are a few species of deer that live in shallow areas of rivers, are considerably better at swimming, and spend a lot more time in the water than our average deer. I’m talking about the Chinese water deer (Hydropotes inermis inermis) and the Korean water deer (Hydropotes inermis argyropus).
Water deer (Hydropotes inermis) is a small mammal from the family of Deer (Cervidae), which looks more like a deer on the outside. The animal originates in the PRC and the Korean Peninsula. There are two water deer subspecies – Chinese water deer (Hydropotes inersius) and Korean water deer (Hydropotes inersii argiropus).
The Chinese water deer (Hydropotes inermis) is a stunning animal, the second representative of the water deer. Its body length reaches 100 cm, its height stands between 45 and 55 cm, and its weight is from 9 to 15 kg.
The Latin name of this species, Hydropotes ineris, is translated into an unarmed water drinker; referring to the lack of horns and the preference of the individuals for the swampy places. Instead of horns, males have very developed upper canons, elongated, protruding, and inflected like fangs starting from their upper lip. Their length varies from 5.5 to 8 cm. The females, however, are smaller in size and their canons only reach up to 0.5 cm.
The water deer is seriously threatened in its natural habitat because of poaching and in some areas, they are hunted for food, while in others they are regarded as pests to be exterminated.
Can water deer swim and how far?
The Water deer originates in the coastal wetlands of Yancheng, the lower regions of the Yangtze River, and the Qiandao Islands. The demilitarized zone is a protected habitat for large herds. Water deer once roamed the west and south of China, but they are now completely missing in these regions.
Populations of water deer from North Korea thrive on well-preserved forests and wetlands. They live on the banks of rivers and marshlands, where high reeds serve as food, as well as protection against poaching. Water deer are good swimmers, able to reach the peripheral islands. Because they swim well and are quite able to travel kilometers in search of a new territory.
The behavior of water deer
Water deer are antisocial animals that prefer a solitary lifestyle. Males are territorial and mark their fields with excrements and urine. It also bites pieces of vegetation to indicate boundaries. Although the males have long canines, they are not related to carnivores. They use their fangs as weapons during territorial and mating battles. The losing male is expelled from the territory and cannot pair with any female within the borders.
In order to preserve the inviolability of their own territory, the water deer is not limited only to producing a smelling liquid – for greater fidelity, they also snatch the grass around their land, thus marking its boundaries. But this is not enough for them, and they spread young tree branches along the edges of the territory, after having previously marked them with saliva.
From the creed eagle, its main enemy, the water deer has learned to hide under the surface of the water. After it feels and hears the predator, it runs quickly to the nearest canal and, swimming or running at a certain distance along the bottom, tries to hide under branches hanging on the shore or under an obstacle. Only the ears, nostrils, and eyes remain above the surface of the water. This allows the deer to keep an eye on the predator while remaining inaccessible and invisible to the predator.
How do water deer communicate?
The females show a territorial behavior only during the mating season, but when the season ends, they can be seen wandering in other areas outside their own. Water deer females behave aggressively in relation to other deer during pregnancy or after the birth of their fawns. They emit a sound which is interpreted as an alarm.
How do they communicate? The means of interaction between males are special sounds that sound like barking from a dog. The water stag “barks” both to humans and to other deer. During the mating season, the female signals the male that she is ready with a whistle.
What makes deer skillful swimmers?
Deer have Strong toes and leg muscles, which are an excellent advantage while swimming. They possess the power and good stamina necessary for swimming for a longer time. Deer can swim up to 13-15 Mph, which easily allows them to cross most lakes & rivers.
Water deer are good swimmers and can swim over long distances. Here are some reasons why they can swim over long distances:
- Their body is built for swimming
The biggest advantage they have while swimming is their strong leg muscles and toes. Deer have good resistance and power in order to swim a longer period of time. Deer can easily cross most rivers and lakes because they can reach speeds of up to 13-15Mph while swimming.
- A Natural Flotation Device in Their Coat
The deer’s coat is another reason why they are such good swimmers because it acts as a flotation device, so they are able to swim for hours. When water deer swim and spend a lot of time in water, their coat provides them a thermal isolation from the heat draining effects.
The top layer is, however, made up of long, empty, air-filled hair and this is the real secret for their swimming skills.
The hair on the upper garment helps them float, and that is why a third of their body stays above the water. It also helps them get the boost of energy they need to swim against the wind.
The Chinese water deer’s fur is fairly thick and rough, with red and maroon shades during winter and white inferior parts. The ears are small and rounded, the legs are relatively long and thin, and the tail is short. Young specimens have dark brown fur with streaks and white spots on the upper back.
As the name suggests, the water stag is an expert swimmer and can swim between islands in search of food and shelter. It is much more active in the morning and in the evening, hiding in the thick vegetation during the day.
Why do deer usually cross wide water bodies?
Water is not only a means of transportation but also a place of shelter for water deer. Here, the water deer, gets away from its main predator – the eagle. Feeling a predator’s approach, the deer runs into the water, and after swimming a certain distance at the bottom, tries to hide under the branches hanging along the coast. The water deer leaves its ears, nostrils, and eyes above the water, and in this way, it remains inaccessible to the predator.
Can baby deer swim?
Of course, baby deer (fawn) can swim, because, in general all water deer are good swimmers. Baby deer might suffer from exhaustion halfway while crossing a lake or a river and it is likely to drown, and it is all due to lack of the power to move for longer periods of time or to lack of experience.
Do deer swim to islands?
The water deer habitat is the wetlands of the eastern central regions of China, situated in the Yangtze River Delta, on the banks of rivers and lakes, and also on the Korean Peninsula. Most often, you can see how water deer graze in high reed howls and on the green foothills, or during their resting on the soft soil of the fields that are plowed and seeded.
Water deer will be able to swim some kilometers if there is a need to change the scenery or look for new pastures, migrating between the coastal islands.
The water deer, as mentioned above, is a solitary animal. It is a good swimmer, able to travel many kilometers on the water in search of the necessary food, or to hide from a predator, swimming from island to island in the delta of the river.
This deer is unique in that it does not have the usual attribute of all the deer, namely horns, which is why experts have placed it in as a special group of deer without horns.