Guide to Patagonia's Monsters & Mysterious beings

I have written a book on this intriguing subject which has just been published.
In this blog I will post excerpts and other interesting texts on this fascinating subject.

Austin Whittall

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Huemul, the endangered Patagonian deer


Today, I received an e-mail which touched me. It was about our endangered Patagonian deer, the Huemul. I have never had the chance to see one, though I have read about the killings of these rare deer by the early Patagonian explorers.

They believed that their rifles were a road towards enlightenment and progress. Regrettably history has proved them wrong.

I am currently in South Africa and have seen with my own eyes the remnants of the megafauna here, in Africa (rhinos, hippos and elephants) and it is quite impressive. It brought to my mind how the world might be if we, humans had not exterminated so many species

The fate of the Huemul now depends on us, so, please read on:

The text of the e-mail

Dear Austin,

I have come to your patagoniamonster site several times, always by some search on huemul or deer in general.

This time I went into it a little more, like your profile. We must be of the same 'generation' and likings, based on Genesis, Supertramp, Jazz.

You are probably better read im non-science books, and better versed in films, as we never had a TV and rarely watch a film on our video player. Our own science library now contains 10'000 registered articles and some 650 books, mainly on deer and deer-related stuff.

Besides working on the issue of exotic red deer, the huemul has been a center subject since about 1988. It is by default a conservation topic, although as scientists we are very interested in the species, as so little is known, and they do have some very unique features. They are difficult to study because there are so few left, and very difficult burocracy.

Over time we came to understand that most likely the general common view about huemul, which was our guide intitially as well, is all wrong. It stems from looking at huemul based on the actual situation, while ignoring history, and lack of comparative knowledge. So over the yrs we put together as much info from the past and published several papers which should help to look at huemul differently.

This has important conservation implications, barking up the wrong tree is likely what has happened for the last 3 decades, and explains why in Argentina huemul has kept going down. We are at 350-500 deer in total.

If you are interested, you might look at some papers, and I would be very interested in your comments on those parts where we discuss the history of huemul. I decided to write this because you seemed to also have covered past info, and maybe there are additional pieces which would be important to know. We are still quite far away from other colleagues accepting our views, it is like a silent debate as the 'other side' never published to refute our views, but they keep having meeting, where 'experts' vote on the importance of what is important to huemul!
Democracy is so great, anyhow, only around huemul have I seen that science is driven by voting.

All papers are downloadable on
I wanted to attach some, but our connection would presently not send these.

2011. Osteological comparisons of appendicular skeletons: a case study on Patagonian huemul deer and its implications for conservation. Animal Production Science, 51(4):327-339. Here we show that it is a misconception to claim that huemul is a mountain deer. This stems from tha fact that they only were left there when first written accounts began.

2008. Age-independent osteopathology in skeletons of a south American cervid, the Patagonian huemul (Hippocamelus bisulcus). Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 44(3):636­648. We document high prevalence of bone disease which indicate possible nutritional problems.

2011. Recent advances in the nutritional ecology of the Patagonian huemul: implications for recovery. Animal Production Science, 51(4):311-326.

This explains why huemul in refuge areas today might be suffering from nutritional problems. A basic reason could be that they no longer have access to nutritionally better areas, which are valley bottoms and winter ranges, which all were the first place to be settled by humans, and today are so full of livestock, people and dogs that no huemul can survive.

2011. Huemul heresies: beliefs in search of supporting data.
1. Historical and zooarcheological considerations.
2. Biological and ecological considerations.
3. Reproduction. Animal Production Science 51(4):cxl-clxxix.

Here we analyse several misconceptions, and particularly go into past distribution, influence of Indians, horse etc.

All the best for now,


I believe that those concerned about how we are handling the environment should go to the website. Thanks Werner!!

More on the Huemul at Patagonian Monsters

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
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