Tag Archives: huemul

Punxsatawney Groundhogs & a Huemul-ish suggestion for Chile

I’m such a gringa sometimes. Cachando Chile friend Marmo (of Marmota & Marmotita fame) reminded me that today was Groundhog Day (which would be Día de Marmotas, if such a thing existed here), so of COURSE I went to the official Punxsatawney Phil web site and tuned in to the live streaming of Gobbler’s Knob’s biggest event of the year. For those who don’t know (US gringos, forgive them, despite 125 years of history, not all the world is aware of Phil’s utmost importance!)

Punxsatawney Phil, Groundhog's Day, February 2, 2011

The world's most celebrated groundhog, Punxsatawney Phil, makes his 125th appearance at Gobbler's Knob (PA) on February 2, 2011

Read on to learn more about the groundhog that made Punxsatawney famous…AND for a suggestion to add a bit of much-needed national silliness to Chile’s annual calendar…

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Huemul

Ever seen a huemul?    A WHAT?    A Huemul (way MOOL),
Hippocamelus bisulcus
, that curious animal that looks like a cross between a horse and a deer on the left side of Chile’s national coat of arms.

The huemul and the condor have appeared on Chile's coat of arms since 1834

The huemul and the condor have appeared on Chile's coat of arms since 1834

Haven’t seen the “escudo nacional” either? Don’t worry, we’ll fix both those problems right here, right now!

Chances are you’ll never get a chance to see a living huemul in the wild. They’re pretty shy (and for darned good reason), and this is probably about as close as you’ll ever get, so take a close look. I spotted this one lurking around a dark corner of the Natural History Museum in Concepción.

The huemul, one of Chile's national animals, in now in danger of extinction

The huemul, one of Chile's national animals, in now in danger of extinction

These big-eared members of the deer family (Cervidae), also known as the South Andean deer,  grow to a shoulder height of 35–40 inches and once ruled the wilds of Patagonia until they had to compete with human settlers who arrived in the 19th century. Their numbers have dwindled drastically due to human activity and the destruction of their natural habitat by deforestation, agriculture, and road building, etc. In fact, they’ve been on the endangered species list since 1976.

The few that remain today are protected in Andean sectors of national parks such as  in Nevados de Chillán-Laguna de Laja in southeastern Chile from the 8th through the 12th Regions and in southwestern Argentina.

By the way, that little guy tagging along behind the huemul in the museum is a pudú (Pudu puda), the smallest deer on Earth—no more than 15–16 inches (40 cm) in height! I’ve actually even seen a couple—in captivity on family farms—but they seem to be more plentiful than the once-grand huemul.