Siberian musk deer

Siberian musk deer
Moschus moschiferus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Clade: Synapsida
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Moschidae
Genus: Moschus
Species: M. moschiferus
Binomial name
Moschus moschiferus
Linnaeus, 1758
Range of the Siberian musk deer

The Siberian musk deer (Moschus moschiferus) is a musk deer found in the mountain forests of Northeast Asia. It is most common in the taiga of southern Siberia, but is also found in parts of Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, Manchuria and the Korean peninsula.

Their small shape allows them to hide from predators through tiny openings in the rocky terrain and also allow them to run exceptionally fast from their predators. Although bearing fangs, Siberian musk deer are actually herbivores with their main source of nutrients, lichens.[2]

Due to the severe amount of poaching for its musk gland, meat and deforestation, the deer population is continuing to decrease. It is expected that the population will be reduced to at least 30% over the next three generations. However, efforts from each sighted countries are beginning to reintroduce the musk deer’s population.[3]


Siberia and Mongolia - M. m. moschiferus

Russian Far East - M. m. turovi

Verkhoyansk Ridge - M. m. arcticus

Sakhalin - M. m. sachalinensis

Korea - M. m. parvipes

Maturity and Mating

It takes approximately a year for the Siberian musk deer to reach maturity with an average deer to live at least 10 – 14 years.

During breeding season, male deer will grow fangs instead of antlers.[2] These fangs are used to compete with other males and attract females. Fangs that are longer and stronger creates a more intimidating stance and becomes more attractive to females as the offspring of that male are likely to become healthier and fit.

Once the male and the female deer have procreated, the females will become pregnant lasting over 6 months and can give birth to 1-3 offspring, usually between the months of May through June.[4]


Musk will mark their territory warning trespassing deers not to cross the boundary. When marking their territories, musk deer gather fallen branches, tree trunks, as well as plant stems and place them in a circle. While placing the various branches around the circle, the deer will often do an olfactory examination and turn the back of its body towards the marked territories. Other ways the Siberian Musk Deer will mark its territory is by defecating in already marked territories or unclaimed territories.[5]

Habitat and Diet

Most Siberian musk deer are generally nocturnal inhabiting the mountainous taiga and found in shrub-covered slopes where foods are abundant. The rocky location provides crevices and crags for the musk deer to hide from many predators, such as lynx and wolverines.

The lichen is the primary food source for the Siberian Musk Deer

Musk deer have a preference for easily digestible nutritious foods that are both rich in protein and low in fiber. During periods of winter, musk deer can survive in even poorer food quality ranging in foods that are low in proteins but are high in energy and can be easily digested.[6]

The majority of their diet consists mostly of lichens, pine needles, leaves, and tree barks. During the winter, 99% of musk deer’s diet are lichens. Siberian Musk deer have a preference for easily digestible nutritious foods.



It is largely nocturnal, and migrates only over short distances. It prefers altitudes of more than 2600 m. Adults are small, weighing 7–17 kg.

The Siberian musk deer is classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN. It is hunted for its musk gland, which fetches prices as high as $45,000 per kilogram. Only a few tens of grams can be extracted from an adult male. It is possible to remove the gland without killing the deer, but this is seldom done. In 2016, the Korean company Sooam Biotech was reported to be attempting to clone the Siberian musk deer to help conserve the species.[7]

The most striking characteristics of the Siberian musk deer are its tusks and kangaroo-like face. Males grow the teeth for display instead of antlers.[8]

A distinct subspecies roams the island of Sakhalin.

World population: 230,000 Decrease Declining

Musk chemical composition

Siberian musk deer preputial gland secretions are constituted of free fatty acids and phenols (10%), waxes (38%) and steroids. Cholestanol, cholesterol, androsterone, Δ4-3α-hydroxy-17-ketoandrostene, 5β,3α-hydroxy-17-ketoandrostane, 5α,3β,17α-dihydroxyandrostane, 5β,3α,17β-dihydroxyandrostane and 5β,3α,17α-dihydroxyandrostane can be isolated from the steroid fraction. 3-Methylpentadecanone (muscone) was not identified among the secretion lipids.[10]


The decline of the Siberian Musk Deer’s population began in China where most of the deer population was abundant. Most notably in the Sichuan plains, the musk production was accounted for 80% of the domestic trade in the 1950s.[4] New sightings of musk deer was later spotted in the upper northeast Asia and Russia; these spotted places soon opened their own musk market. After the 1980s, the production begins to steadily decline due to hunting for their musk glands. Then the cycle of over-harvesting the deer’s musk continued until the exploitation severely reduced the musk deer’s population.

Another threat comes from the habit loss by deforestation. For a long period, China cut more of its forest than they could replant. 200million cm3[4] of China’s forest recourses were cut down in the past 25 years in order to harvest the timber stock in trade for commerce. Deforestation is a severe threat to the musk deer’s long term survival because the deer can only live in a few areas.

Conservation Action

The Siberian musk deer is considered vulnerable, but is slowly declining to endangerment. In Russia, the Siberian Musk Deer is protected as Very Rare under part 7.1 of the Law of the Mongolian Animal Kingdom (2000) and also under the 1995 Mongolian Hunting Law.[3] The musk deers are also protected under the National Parks which accounts for approximately 13% of the Siberian Musk Deer population.

In China, at the international level, trading musk is controlled through CITES. All trades regarding musk is permitted to strict regulation to avoid exploitation of the survival of the deer.[11]

Other efforts include


  1. Nyambayar, B.; Mix, H. & Tsytsulina, K. (2008). "Moschus moschiferus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2008. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 29 March 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of vulnerable.
  2. 1 2 Fessenden, M. (2014). "Fanged deer not extinct, still roaming the mountains of Afghanistan".
  3. 1 2 3 Nyambayar, B.; Mix, H.; Tsytsulina, K. (2015). "Moschus moschiferus (Siberian musk deer)". Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  4. 1 2 3 Qi, W.-H., Li, J., Zhang, X.-Y., Wang, Z.-K., Li, X.-X., Yang, C.-Z., Fu, W. and Yue, B.-S. (2011) ‘The reproductive performance of female forest musk deer () in captivity’, Theriogenology, 76(5), pp. 874–881. doi: 10.1016/j.theriogenology.2011.04.018.
  5. Maksimova, D. A., Seryodkin, I. V., Zaitsev, V. A., & Miquelle, D. G. (2014). Research program of musk deer ecology in the Sikhote-Alin region. Achievements in the Life Sciences, 8(1), 65–71. doi:10.1016/j.als.2014.11.005
  6. Wang, W., Zhou, R., He, L., Liu, S., Zhou, J., Qi, L., Li, L. and Hu, D. (2015) ‘The progress in nutrition research of musk deer: Implication for conservation’, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 172, pp. 1–8. doi: 10.1016/j.applanim.2015.09.006
  7. Zastrow, Mark (8 February 2016). "Inside the cloning factory that creates 500 new animals a day". New Scientist. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  8. National Geographic Channel. Wild Russia. Siberia. (2009)
  10. Musk deer (Moschus moschiferus): Reinvestigation of main lipid components from preputial gland secretion. V. E. Sokolov, M. Z. Kagan, V. S. Vasilieva, V. I. Prihodko and E. P. Zinkevich, Journal of Chemical Ecology, January 1987, Volume 13, Issue 1, pages 71-83, doi:10.1007/BF01020352
  11. Yang, Q., Meng, X., Xia, L. and Feng, Z. (2002) Conservation status and causes of decline of musk deer (Moschus spp.) in china. Available at:[]

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