Taruka (Hippocamelus antisensis) is a cervid found within the Andean Mountains of South America. Taruka is a medium-sized deer, with a shoulder height between 70 and 90 centimeters (Whitehead, 1972) and a weight of 60 to 75 kilograms (Glade, 1985). Taruka mainly feed on small dicotyledon plants (Roe & Reese, 1976; Barrio, 1999). Sielfeld (1987) has also observed tarukas consuming alfalfa crops.
Tarucas share their habitat and compete with two other native ungulates, guanaco (Lama guanicoe) and vicuna (Vicugna vicugna), and livestock (Sielfeld, 1987; Muñoz & Yañez, 2000). Puma (Puma concolor) are their main predator (Muñoz & Yañez, 2000).
Taruka are difficult to see because their coloration matches the dominant vegetation (Roe & Rees, 1976) and they silently remain hidden in the presence of humans. Tarukas’ current distribution is from northern Peru to northern Argentina and Chile (Merkt, 1987). They live above treeline in the Andean foothills, on mountain slopes characterized by rocks and cliffs (Barrio, 2004).
The Taruka population in Chile is estimated at approximately 700 individuals (Muñoz & Yañez, 2000), and they are considered to be a Vulnerable (VU) species with a decreasing population trend by the IUCN (Glade, 1993; Galaz, 1998 ; IUCN, 2008). Hunting is prohibited by the Chilean Hunting Law (Ministerio de Agricultura, 1996). The main threats to taruca are thought to be competition with livestock, habitat destruction, trophy hunting and predation by domestic dogs (Barrio 2006).
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