This shy and timid species is generally solitary. It is active at night, mostly feeding at dusk and dawn, and spends the day resting in the undergrowth (4). Lichen forms an important part of the Siberian musk deer’s diet, and it may climb inclined trunks up to four metres above the ground to reach it. On average, 0.8 kilograms of lichen is consumed per day (2) and, during the winter, may comprise 99 percent of the deer’s total food intake (1). Additional winter foods may include small branches, bark, leaves and pine needles, while in summer it may also take grasses, cereals and the leaves of the bilberry and wineberry (2). The Siberian musk deer does not forage particularly far afield, only ranging over a few kilometres per day, with summer and winter feeding grounds located nearby each other (4).
During the autumn and winter, communal defecation sites, and their associated scents, are used to help the deer communicate with one another. Scent is also an important indicator of the male Siberian musk deer’s territory, which may cover up to 300 hectares (4) and is marked out by wiping thick, yellow, strong-smelling secretions of the caudal gland on surrounding vegetation (5). The male’s territory usually contains the feeding ranges of between one to three females and generally, weaker or smaller males will not attempt to enter into it, but on occasions that they do, fighting may ensue.
During the breeding season, the male produces musk, which mixed with its urine, gives it a pink colour and the strong musk smell (5) that is believed to stimulate the female to begin oestrus (2). Breeding takes place in November and December, with females giving birth to one or two offspring after a gestation period of about six months. The suckling behaviour of musk deer is unusual; while the fawn suckles, the mother lifts her hind leg, which the fawn touches with its foreleg. A similar gesture is seen in some other hoofed mammals during courtship (5). The Siberian musk deer is capable of living up to 20 years in captivity, although the average age in the wild is three to four years (2).