Watercress 36 - September 1996

Have you seen the Muntjac deer?

The Muntjac deer has been seen twice on site now and readers would perhaps be interested to know more about this secretive little creature.

It is not native to the British Isles - the present, growing population is descended from escapees from Woburn Estate, early this century.

In appearance they are surprisingly small, about 18 to 19 inches at the shoulder, russet in colour, and present a distinctly rounded outline at the spine. Their faces are different from any other wild deer and are very distinctive, the buck especially so.

He has a V-shaped ridge on his forehead, leading up to furry protusions ending in tiny antlers. He does not use these for fighting over females, preferring instead his teeth, the canines of which are long and project over his lower jaw.

The female is hornless. Both sexes have very prominent scent glands under the inner corner of the eye. When alarmed, the Muntjac raises its tail to show white underneath.

They are seldom seen, preferring to browse and graze in the deep cover of either heavy scrub or woodland. Their successful colonisation of the South of England is partly due to this secretive behaviour, and partly to the fertility of the species.

A doe may conceive almost immediately after fawning and, with no fixed rutting season, is capable of producing a fawn every 7 or 8 months, if conditions are favourable.

They are spreading slowly north and westwards and with their increasing numbers perhaps we will have more sightings of this delightful and attractive little deer in the future.

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