Red Brocket Deer
This neotropical ungulate is classified under the Order Artiodactyla, in Family Cervidae, which is also shared with deer and moose. Under the genus Mazama, there are 4 species - the Brown Brocket, the Little Pigmy Brocket, the Red Brocket, and Little Red Brocket. The Red Brocket species itself has been further broken down into 14 subspecies. (Whitehead, 1972)
Its physical description and habit are very similar to that of the Brown Brocket. The Red Brocket, which follows its name, has a redder coat color than the Brown. The growth of hair on this animal is in a reversed direction on the nape of the neck, making this deer very unique. The neck has a grayish white supraorbital streak or circumorbital band and the underside of this animal is white. (Whitehead, 1972) The tail measures from 3.2 to 6 inches in length and is brown dorsally and white ventrally. The females are about the same size as the males of their species with a body length from 2.3 to 4.3 feet. The males have simple spike antlers, which are seldom no more than 4 to 5 inches in length and they lack brow tines. (Nowak, 1999) There is no fixed season for shedding or developing antlers. This specific species in the genus Mazama is the largest in South America reaching about 28 inches at shoulder height. (Whitehead, 1972) They have a stout body, slender limbs, and an arched back similar to an African ungulate the duiker. (Huffman, 2004) The upper canines may be present or absent in this species. The metatarsal gland is absent. The females have four mammae, even though they usually only typically have one offspring. (Nowak, 1999)
Red brocket deer live in, and primarily keep to, dense thickets on mountains and are usually solitary or in pairs. (Whitehead, 1972) In the interior forests of Surinam, this species has been recorded to have a distribution of one deer per square kilometer. (Huffman, 2004) There are 10 subspecies of Red Brocket alone that are represented in South America and the Trinidad Islands (West Indes). Mazama americana is distributed as far north as Mexico and as far south as Paraguay and northern Argentina. (Whitehead, 1972)
This species actually has the widest distribution, seen in every South American republic, except Chile and Uruguay. (Huffman, 2004) In Paraguay, the subspecies M.a. rufa and M.a. sarae are found along with one other subspecies of the Brown Brocket. The Red brocket may have disappeared in El Salvador because of hunting and habitat destruction. (Owen, 1993)
Ontogeny and Reproduction:
Breeding occurs year round, peaking in July through September during the longer two wet seasons. Gestation lasts approximately 200 to 225 days. A single spotted fawn is typically born between February and April as well as July to September depending on environmental conditions in which they live, and only occasionally there are two. (Nowak, 1999) Postpartum estrus can occur as well, meaning the female can be nursing a fawn and be pregnant at the same time. The single fawn weighs around 510-567 grams. Weaning occurs at 6 months and sexual maturity is as early as 12 to 13 months in females. Their lifespan in the wild ranges from 7 to 12 years and can be up to 16 years in captive settings. (Nowak, 1999)
Ecology and Behavior:
Red brockets are primarily diurnal and spend most of their time foraging through the dense forests where they live. Their main diet consists of grasses, vines, and tender green shoots, also fruits and seeds in the Chaco of Paraguay. (Nowak, 1999) At dusk, they can also be found foraging in cultivated fields where they are fond of melons, beans, chili, and corn, making them a nuisance to crop farmers. They can do extensive damage to bean and corn crops. (Nowak, 1999) According to research recorded by Marc Gayot and company, in the Journal of Tropical Ecology, both the red brocket and a species of grey brocket (Mazama gouazoubira) in the French Guiana rely heavily on fruits and seeds normally during the fruiting season from February to May, but they will switch their diet to fibers, and leaves in the fall dry season from June to September, when fruit availability is scarce. They will also consume flowers in the flowering and early fruiting season when they are abundant, usually from October to January. They also found after reviewing stomach contents that these ruminants swallow a majority of their food items whole or slightly crushed. (Gayot, Oliver, and others, 2004)
They are expert swimmers and it is common to see them swimming across water 300 meters wide. (Huffman, 2004)
Their natural predators are jaguar, puma, ocelot, and large birds of prey like the Crested Eagle. Mazama americana are also hunted extensively by natives, however their body size and mobility make them very adept at dodging away from hunters. (Whitehead, 1972)
Red brocket, found in areas from Mexico and Central America, through Brazil to northern Argentina, are hosts to a fly parasite known as the deer ked or deer louse fly (Lipoptena mazamae). This fly is a blood-feeding ectoparasite that is adapted with specialized claws that help it cling to and move through the host’s pelage. In the U.S., the parasite, which is also common on white-tailed deer, is confused for a wood tick because of its appearance. (Kern, website)
The frugivore-granivore diet exhibited by the red brocket is directly tied to the process of forest regeneration, even though it is difficult to understand their direct role in seed dispersal. According to Gayot, Oliver and others, a large majority of the seeds are destroyed during rumination. However, some of the smaller seeds belonging to the genus Cecropia, Bagassa, and Ficus, almost always remain intact and are dispersed in the feces. However, the brockets’ role in seed dispersal is of minor importance, because these small seeds are also eaten and dispersed by many other mammals. The main impact of these cervids in the process of forest regeneration, in the end, is their negative pressure on seed dispersal. (Gayot, Oliver, and others, 2004)
As far as conservation status for this species, according to Weber and Gonzalez in Ecoscience, there is no information on this species’ conservation status for most Central American countries because the species has not been greatly studied.
Gayot, Marc, Oliver Henry, Gerard Dubost and Daniel Sabatier. 2004. Journal of Tropical Ecology. “Comparative diet of the two forest cervids of the genus Mazama in French Guiana.” 20: 31-43. Cambridge University Press.
Huffman, Brent. An Ultimate Ungulate Fact Sheet. “Mazama americana”. Retrieved on 20 October, 2004. Website last updated 22 March, 2004. http://www.ultimateungulate.com/Artiodactyla/Mazama_americana.html
Kern, William H., Jr. “Neotropical deer ked or Neotropical deer louse fly”. Retrieved on 20 October, 2004.
Nowak, Ronald M. 1999. Walker’s Mammals of the World- 6th edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press. Baltimore and London. 6(2):1123-24.
Owen, James G., and J. Knox Jones, Jr. 1993. The Texas Journal of Science. “The Red Brocket, Mazama americana, in El Salvador”. 45(1):106.
Weber, Manuel, and Susana Gonzalez. 2003. Ecoscience. “Latin American deer diversity and conservation: A review of status and distribution.” 10(4): 443-54.
Whitehead, G. Kenneth. 1972. Deer of the World. Constable & Company Ltd. London. Pp. 28, 56-59,167-68.
Reference written by Laura Schmidt, Biology 378 (Mammalogy), University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point. Edited by Christopher Yahnke. Page last updated August 8, 2005.