April 2012 - Muntjac Deer
Muntjac deer, also known as barking deer due to their loud barking call, are commonly seen in fields, marsh, woods and even in gardens in Bawburgh. Although best seen at dawn and dusk, they are often seen during the day. They are usually seen as solitary animals or in pairs (doe/calf or doe/buck although pair bonding does not occur). They are the smallest deer in Britain (43 to 52cm at the shoulder), and are a non native species first introduced into Woburn Park, Bedfordshire, from China, in 1838. Since this introduction they have spread over southern England and are ever increasing in number.
They have russet brown fur in summer, grey brown fur in winter, with darker markings on their faces and legs. As their haunches are higher than their shoulders they have a tendancy to look hunched. Bucks develop short straight antlers (up to 10cm) and have large canine teeth which protrude from the top lip and are used in fighting for their small exclusive territories (females can overlap several male territories). Usually bucks are tolerant of each other except over access to females. Both buck and doe have black scent glands under both eyes. When startled, they lift their tails up revealing a white backside as they quickly disappear. Muntjac deer do not have a defined rutting season, and breed all year round. Does can conceive days after giving birth.
They have a varied diet, eat berries, acorns, grasses and a variety of plants. Economically, the Muntjac may not do as much damage as other deer to agriculture or timber crops. With high populations of Muntjac there may be problems of coppice regeneration and loss of some plants of conservation significance. Culling may be the only option (as Muntjac meat is supposed to taste the best of all the deer, one can but hope that the meat does not go to waste). There has also been an increase in reported car accidents caused by these and other deer. Around Bawburgh we have had many fatalities of Muntjac on the roads.
Muntjac is the oldest known deer species appearing 15 to 35 million years ago in fossil remains in France and Germany.
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