Deer in Jim Corbett National Park India
Corbett has four species of deer. They are the most frequently sighted large mammals in the Park.
Chital (Axis axis) or Spotted deer is the commonest of deer species of Corbett. It is also the most beautiful, with characteristic white spots on its reddish-brown body. Only male chital have antlers that may grow up to 1 m length. These antlers are periodically shed and a new set developed every time.
Chital live in large herds and are usually seen in open grasslands. Grasses form the main food for chital but they also depend on fallen fruits, flowers and leaves from forested areas. They prefer to graze in short grasslands without much cover because in such areas
they can watch out for predators like tigers. Tree cover is also required as shelter and source of food. Chital are most active in early morning and evening and rest in cool places during the heat of the day. They give alarm calls to warn the herd when a potential threat or predator is sensed.
Chital are ecologically important because they form an important prey base for carnivores like leopards and tigers. They also help in dispersal of plant seeds including grasses and also tree and shrub species like amla, ber, etc.
Para or Hog Deer (Axis porcinus) is the rarest of Corbett’s deer. It is closely related to the chital but is smaller in size. Unlike most other deer, the hog deer is not given to leaping over obstacles but instead, it escapes its predators by crouching low, ducking under obstacles. Its limbs are short and its hind legs are longer than the fore legs. This anatomy raises its rump to a higher level than the shoulders.
This species mostly inhabits grasslands, swampy areas and clearings and is usually nocturnal. Unlike chital, hog deer are solitary animals but sometimes feed in small groups. Hog deer face the threat of habitat destruction, especially draining of swampy areas and change in water regimes.
Sambar (Cervus unicolor) is the largest deer found in Corbett. Its body is largely a uniform greyish-brown in colour, except for the creamy white on the backsides and under-tail areas. Males have antlers up to 1 m long that are periodically shed and replaced. Male sambar also have dense manes on their necks.
Sambar are mostly found in dense forests with a gently sloping to steep topography. They are known to reach altitudes as high as 3,700 m. Sambar browse on leaves, berries, fallen fruit, leaves and tender bark of young trees, and also graze on grasses and sedges. These deer are mostly active solitary but may be found in small groups during the mating season.
They let out a loud, repetitive alarm call when they sense a threat. These signals are used by trackers to locate tigers.
Sambar is the most important prey species for the tiger and presence of Sambar usually indicates a good tiger habitat.
Kakar or Barking Deer (Muntiacus muntjak) is the smallest of Corbett’s deer.
The body colour is golden tan on the dorsal (upper) side and is lighter on the undersides. Male Kakar have short antlers growing on long, bony projections called burrs. In place of antlers, females possess only bony knob-like burrs on their head. Males also have tusk-like upper canine teeth curving sharply outwards from the lips.
Kakar are mostly found in areas having dense vegetation and hilly terrain. They prefer to be close to water-sources. Kakar are omnivorous and feed on herbs, fruit, grass, tree-bark and also birds’ eggs and small animals. They are solitary and quite territorial.
Kakar emit a typical dog-like alarm “bark” when they sense the presence of a predator. Barking may carry on continuously for up to an hour. They are active both during daytime and at night.
They are a prey for tigers, leopards, jackals and pythons.