Mongolian gazelle

Procapra gutturosa

TAXONOMY

Procapra gutturosa (Pallas, 1777), southeastern Transbaikalia, Russia.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

None known.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Mongolian gazelles have a head and body length of 3.3-5.0 ft (100-150 cm), tail length of 3.2-4.8 in (8-12 cm), shoulder height of 1.8-2.8 ft (54-84 cm), and weight of 44-86 lb (20-39 kg). They seldom make a sound, but occasionally will make loud bellows during the rutting season. Their coat is colored a light brown or buff that has orange-buff tones with pinkish cinnamon sides in the summer; the hairs become longer, each hair going up to 2 in (5 cm) in length, and paler in winter. The darker upper coat gradually converts into the white under parts, while the heart-shaped patch of white hair on the rump is very distinctive. The muzzle, chin, and jowls are white, while the bridge of the nose may be slightly darker than the body color. During the breeding season, males develop a swollen throat, and may also get a "bulbous" muzzle. Their eyes are small, but they protrude noticeably from the head. Only males possess horns that are dark gray and lyre-shaped horns, curling backward from the forehead and then running parallel to the back. Slightly ridged along most of their length, the horns grow 10-16 in (26-40 cm) long and diverge along their length, such that the tips are 6-10 times farther apart than at the base.

DISTRIBUTION

Eastern Mongolia and Inner Mongolia, China. HABITAT

Grassy steppes and sub-deserts. BEHAVIOR

Mongolian gazelles are active during the daylight hours of fall and winter, mostly grazing in the mornings and late afternoons. They will excavate a depression bed within bushes in order to shelter themselves from winds and harsh weather. Being very fast animals, they are able to run up to 40 mph (65 kph), sustain this speed for 7-9 mi (12-15 km), and can leap up to 6.6 ft (2 m) into the air. They also are good swimmers, and can easily cross wide rivers. Large-scale migrations are regularly taken by this species. Herds of 6,000-8,000 animals of both sexes gather in the spring where they begin their northerly migrations for food and to drop young, often covering 120-180 mi (200-300 km) in a day. When reaching summer pastures in June, the sexes will isolate themselves and females prepare to give birth. Herds generally use several hundred square miles (kilometers) as their summer home range, regularly shifting areas in the search for food. During the winter, herds normally number no more than 120 animals. Sometimes single-sex herds of 20-30 animals will gather.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

They eat grasses and herbs.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Polygamous. The mating season is from November to January, with resulting births from May to July. Mating occurs within the herds, and males actively collect harems. Female gestation period is about 185 days, with usually 1-2 births per pregnancy (twins are common), although three births sometimes occur. Mothers will hide her young for their first days of life, but will later join the herds after 4-8 days. Herds tend to be small during this time. Young are weaned after about five months, sexual maturity occurs at 1.5-2.0 years, and life span is around seven years.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Lower Risk/Near Threatened. Humans primarily threaten them from habitat loss and degradation, and ongoing hunting.

Their primary enemy is the wolf, but lynxes and dogs also prey on them. Foxes, cats, and eagles may take the young.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

They are hunted for their meat and skin. ♦

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