The distribution of musk deer extends through the forested mountains of eastern Asia, from the Arctic Circle in Siberia in the north, to the north-eastern edge of Mongolia and Korea and further southward across China, away from the Gobi Desert, to Vietnam, and Myanmar continuing as far as the southern Himalayas in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. In Central
Asia, musk deer occur in Kazakhstan, possibly in Kyrgyzstan, and the south of Russia.
Musk deer mainly inhabit altitudes of above 1000 m. In the Himalayas, the animals’ range extends in parts up to the tree line at an altitude of 4200 m, but in the northern parts of their range, musk deer may occur at much lower altitudes.
The accuracy of the estimates of the size of musk deer populations varies greatly in the different regions.
Only in very few countries are population estimates based at least in part on systematic counts carried out in selected areas and extrapolated to larger distribution ranges: this method of estimating population sizes was used in the Soviet Union.
The population of all musk deer species may be estimated to be between 400 000 and 800 000 individuals.
Himalayan Musk Deer populations in Afghanistan and of Black Musk Deer in Bhutan are estimated to be small.
The population of Forest Musk Deer in China is estimated to number approximately 600 000 individuals, but the basis of this figure is unclear. This species is most widespread in China and constitutes the largest population of all musk deer species in China. The other three musk deer species also live in China, but only in certain provinces of the country and they are markedly less abundant than the Forest Musk Deer.
In India, Himalayan Musk Deer inhabit parts of Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, the northern part of Uttar Pradesh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. The species is more common in the Eastern Himalayas because the habitat of the animals has been less disturbed there. Black Musk Deer occur in the provinces of Assam and Sikkim.
Siberian Musk Deer populations in North and South Korea are considered to be near extinction. Information on their present distribution and population size is, however, lacking.
Populations of Siberian Musk Deer in Mongolia are believed to be small owing to hunting of these animals.
Nothing is known about the small population of Black Musk Deer in Myanmar.
In Nepal, Himalayan Musk Deer are widely distributed across the mountainous parts of the Himalayas. Within protected areas numbers of the deer are increasing, while outside the protected areas they are continuing to decline. Black Musk Deer also occur in the Everest region.
In Pakistan, Himalayan Musk Deer are found in only a small part of the mountainous regions of the Western Himalayas.
In the territory of the former Soviet Union only the Siberian Musk Deer species occurs. The subspecies M. m. moschiferus is widely distributed throughout Eastern Siberia and in the Russian Far East, from the Altai Mountains in the west to the Kolymskiy Mountains in the east. M. m. parvipes occurs in the Ussurisk region of the Russian Far East and four populations of the Sakhalin Musk Deer M. m. sachalinensis inhabit the southern half of Sakhalin Island.
No information is available about estimates for population sizes of musk deer in Kazakhstan (where they occur in the easternmost part, in the Altai province) and in Kyrgyzstan (where it possibly occurs), but the numbers would be very low.
Populations of Forest Musk Deer occur in the north-east area of Vietnam. The population levels are declining here in all areas because of illegal hunting.
Source: Homes V. (1999). On the Scent: Conserving
Musk Deer – the Uses of Musk and Europe’s Role in its Trade.