For Gazelles, Love Is Different (But the Same)

Shmulik Yedvab, SPNI Mammals Expert
Gazelles Photo Dov Greenblat

The love life of the Israeli Mountain Gazelle

If you were to ask a female gazelle to detail the most important qualities of an ideal mate, the domination of an area with the tastiest and most nutritious food would most certainly top her list.

Male gazelles do their utmost to dominate territories that will attract females.  The richer the site, the more likely females will spend time there, thus providing the male with better opportunities to mate.

Gazelles Photo Dov Greenblat

But don’t be fooled.  A decent territory is never a matter of sheer luck.  Fierce male competition over quality area is simply unavoidable, as males are constantly busy marking their territory and chasing away other males who are challenging their control.  From time to time, these battles for dominance get violent, with goring incidents by intruders or defenders resulting in a loss of life.

It should be understood that not all males manage to dominate a territory.  In fact, most males are either too young, too old or simply incapable of such domination.  These males tend to huddle together into bachelor herds or dwell alone in less attractive areas, thus minimizing their chance of ever finding love.

So, it turns out that female gazelles are not at all shallow, but rather incredibly practical.  Their mating choices are not based on the short-term gains of occupying the areas with the best food and shelter, but the long-term gains of mating with a male capable of securing and dominating such an area, namely the ability to pass on traits like stamina, agility, and competitiveness to their offspring. In other words, for gazelles, love between a male and female is all about survival and progression of the species.

Gazelle Photo Dov Greenblat

But what about the love between a female gazelle and her fawn? A mother gazelle will do almost anything to protect her offspring. Though it defies human logic, this sometimes includes long periods of separation.  The reasoning is that predators are naturally attracted to the young fawns, who are slow and, thus, ideal targets.  In order to keep the predators at bay, the female gazelle hides the fawn away for long hours, only returning for brief nursing breaks a few times a day.

Every once in a while, hikers encounter an “abandoned” fawn.  In most cases, these animals are being well-cared for and protected in a way best suited for the survival of its species survival.  So, if you spot such a fawn while outdoors, please keep your distance and allow its mother to take care of it properly. 

We must remember that while animals love differently than humans do, and we may not understand their methods of care and survival, they are simply rooted in their nature, which is profoundly beautiful in its own way.

(NOTE: If you find an injured animal, please call the Israel Nature and Parks Authority hotline at *3639.)

Category: Animals

Tagged under: Gazelles, Shmulik Yedvab, SPNI Mammals Expert