Muntjac closeup

Muntjac closeup - Deer
The muntjac is not native to the UK and is the smallest deer species we have. Originally from Asia, the first herd was brought to Woburn Abbey in 1893. In this case it was the Indian sub-species, which was introduced. These were replaced later with Reeves’ Muntjac. Many Muntjacs were intentionally released in the 1940’s and 50’s and this population has grown over time.

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Muntjacs were first brought to Bedfordshire and this remains a stronghold, along with most of the eastern and central counties. Scattered populations also exist across Wales and the Southwest, plus one or two colonies in northern England and Scotland. Muntjacs are even, more recently, being seen in town parks and gardens. There are several on my local reserve in Hampton and my mum has even seen one wander through her garden in the middle of a rural village.

The Muntjac is a small, hunched looking deer. Its summer coat is chestnut with a white belly and light throat. The tail is quite short and white underneath, with a corresponding white rump, which the tail covers when lying flat. The tail may be raised in alarm to show the white area as a signal. The legs are black on the front edge and the bucks have black muzzles and dark V stripes on the pedicles. The does and immature bucks have lighter, brown faces with a black top of the head and a dark diamond marking on the face. Prominent glands can be seen on the Muntjacs’ faces below the eyes and on the forehead, and bucks have tusks showing from the upper jaw. Does also have tusks (canine teeth) but these are not usually long enough to see.

The average height of an adult Muntjac is only around half a metre or eighteen inches. They are able to browse higher foliage by standing on their hind legs or bending saplings down to reach the leaves by walking over them.

The typical habitat of the Muntjac is broadleaf woodland with copious and varied undergrowth. If they live in ornamental parkland or conservation areas, they will often eat wild or decorative flowers and other plants of interest, particularly if food supplies are short.
The muntjac deer is usually seen alone, unless it is a doe with a fawn or a small family group. It is also common to come across single fawns, which are left unattended while the doe forages. Muntjac often move between feeding ground and lying up ground as they both feed and rest for short periods. They commonly develop well-worn tunnels and tracks between their popular sites and leave scent messages more frequently than other deer species.
Muntjacs are famous for their dog-like bark, leading to the name ‘barking deer’. Both bucks and does bark and they may do so repetitively for several minutes, sometimes stamping their forefeet. Bucks also grunt during rutting and does will call back in a bird-like manner. A clicking may be heard from the bucks when threatening one another. Fawns can be heard to squeak to attract the attention of their dams.

The Muntjac buck asserts and defends a territory marked with scent marks, scrapes, dung and fraying. Their territories commonly include several does’ grounds and when the females are in oestrus, the bucks join the does and any young they have. Muntjac breed all year round and bucks mature sexually at nine months, does at seven months. The bucks fight using antlers and tusks and can injure each other quite seriously in spite of the thick protective skin on their necks. It is important for the bucks to keep their antlers and tusks in good condition, as without them they cannot defend their territory. A doe will take seven months to produce a single fawn and usually mate again soon afterwards.

Muntjac in long grass

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