Spotting An Axis
Also known as Spotted Deer, we were delighted to see this Axis fawn peering at us through the spring sunshine.
Axis are a stunning deer with a strongly spotted coat, large antlers (over 76cm) on adult males, and are native to the Indian Subcontinent where their preferred habitat is dense forest. These large animals are active during the day, but shelter under shade during the hotter Indian days, becoming more active at dusk.
Axis are a grazing animal, feeding mostly on fresh shoots of grasses, and they form matriarchal herds comprising an adult female and her offspring from the previous and the present year.
They can be very vocal deer, emitting loud alarm barks and bellows
In their native habitat, Axis can breed at any time of the year and females have been known to conceive again just two weeks after giving birth, allowing them to give birth twice in a year. Unlike many deer species, Axis are much more monogamous. Instead of a male trying to create a harem or defend a lek (breeding territory), male Axis Deer tend to pick one female and stick with her. This gives interesting advantages to the deer species as, for example, it increases the diversity of the population by allowing more males to breed in every season. With more and younger males breeding, the genetic variability in the population is greatly increased over the practice of polygamy.
Polygamy – or mating with multiple mates – is practiced in most species of the Cervidae family. More specifically, most deer and elk species practice polygyny. Meaning “many females,” this form of reproduction typically takes place when the largest, most aggressive males control mating access to many different females. This strategy also has its benefits – namely that the “most fit” male genetics are the only ones that get passed on. But, it also has its drawbacks. Many males never get the chance to mate, and most must wait until they are very old to begin mating. This limits the genetic variability within the population and can lead to peculiar sexually selected traits.
Despite their beneficial evolutionary breeding habits, wild Axis are still threatened by loss of habitat due to urban development and logging, hunting and diseases from non-native species.