Late at night it sounds like someone is being murdered. The noise carries in the darkness, loud and clear but haunting and disturbing. This is the call of the muntjac deer sometimes known as the barking deer. The bark is either a call to identify their location, a challenge to intruders or as a warning signal. Either way, these solitary and secretive mammals make a lot of noise when they want to.
The English population is the Reeves’s muntjac, (Muntiacus reevesi) or Chinese muntjac are all descendants of the 1925 escapees from Woburn Abbey. Muntjac deer are not native to the UK, but survive happily in the wild in the UK.
They are native to South Asia and the tropical climate in this part of the world means that they have developed to breed throughout the year. There is no rutting season for these docile and timid deer. However, their ability to breed throughout the year has seen a prolific growth in their population. These small deer are also different from native deer in the UK as they do not destroy crops or woodland. They do however graze and can clear the brambles and herbs on the woodland floor. This has been linked to the decline in nightingales and can impact the native bluebells, orchids and other native wild flowers. In some areas, especially conservation areas, the muntjac deer can be seen as a pest.
The male is small – about the same size as a dog with small antlers and a distinct ‘v’ shape on his face. He also had small tusks, barely visible, but there! The female is a similar size but has smaller antlers. These are solitary mammals, there aren’t huge herds wandering the countryside so seeing them is not always easy. To confirm their presence dropping may be seen or found. Muntjac deer droppings are small droppings measuring about 1cm by 1.3cm. They are black, rounded or cylindrical and can sometimes have a point at one or both ends.
Muntjac deer footprints are the smallest of all the deer and measure 2cm wide and about 4cm long with two ‘toes’.
The males are territorial and their territory will overlap the territory a number of females. The female will live either alone or with her kid. It is estimated that there are about 40000 muntjac deer in the UK who can breed from about 8 months old. The gestation period is about 210days and the female can fall pregnant immediately after the arrival of her kid. The males will live for about 10 years with the females having a life span of 13 years.
Make the Most of Your Wildlife Encounter
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Now that you have seen something amazing how about using these recommendations to to spot more and take amazing photographs.
- Pocket Nature: Wildlife of Britain – Pop this small book in your bag and be able to identify what you have seen even if you don’t have internet access. Look at prices and purchase on Amazon
- Binoculars – These small binoculars are a great start for watching wildlife. They aren’t the biggest or most powerful but are great value. Look at prices and purchase on Amazon
- Camera – The Canon PowerShotSX70 HS camera is halfway between a simple point and shoot and a big bulky DSLR with interchangeable lenses. It will allow you to photograph all sorts of wildlife from birds in the distance to tiny flowers. See prices and buy direct from Canon or check offers on Amazon