Posted by: braddenvillage | April 26, 2013

Munjac Deer – A very shy and retiring Villager!

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It was a beautiful March morning, and I decided to walk out of the village, and past St Michael’s Church with my two dogs.

As I drew level with the fence line – actually at my head level because the road is in a dip – I heard a screaming, keening noise, from the grave yard. It drew an icy finger of dread down my spine, I can tell you!

I turned to look – pulled towards the fence, it has to be said, by two eager Labradors – and I spotted my “screamer”. It was a tiny Munjac deer which had clearly tried to get through the wooden fence into the Church yard, and had got stuck… We all know that feeling after a particularly fine Sunday roast!

The poor creature was literally screaming with fear, not helped by the fact that one of my Labradors – not known for his kindness towards Gods other creatures – was licking it’s rump, in what can only be described as a particularly speculative fashion.

It was clear that I wouldn’t be able to assist the poor deer whilst holding back two excitable Labradors, so I called in on a couple of very kind Braddenites.

Whilst one held back the dogs, we approached the deer from opposite directions.

I’ve never been close to a Munjac deer – at least, not without a bonnets length of car between us (long story!) – and it was a revelation.

The deer was about the size of a medium to small sized dog, and incredibly muscular and dense. I held it to try and give it a little bit of relief from the pressure it’s body was under, and it was like nothing I’ve ever held before. It was like holding a super strengthened toddler who really didn’t want to get into a bath!

It suddenly realised that the other Villager was approaching from its rear end, and at that point twisted around, and managed to get itself loose and escape… leaving a goodly amount of fur behind, it has to be said.

It then darted forward, and backward, across the High Street calling out, somewhat, desperately. My fellow good Samaritan  – who seemed to know a lot about the Munjac’s in the village area –  told me that she was looking for her baby.

We decided that hanging around whilst she looked for her offspring, was only going to increase her stress levels, so we both withdrew, and I took my dogs home after, what had been, a truncated, but truly exciting walk!

Anyway, I thought that as these little deer are apparently official Villagers – along with the Bradden Newts – they deserve their own page, so that we can all learn about them.

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Common name – Muntjac deer (often called Reeves Muntjac)

Scientific name – muntiacus reevesi

Size – smallest of all UK deer, adults stand approximately 45cm at the shoulder and have an average weight range of between 10 – 16kg. The males (bucks) are marginally larger than the females (does).

Identification tips – a Muntjac’s small size is the primary factor in identification, and they often appear to be hunched forward when running. During the summer months a Muntjac’s coat is a uniform reddy-brown colour with very pale, often white, hair under the chin, throat, belly and tail. The tail itself is a good identification aid, being noticeably longer than the tails of other British deer.

Muntjac bucks have small and unbranched antlers which slope rearwards, ending in a pointed tip. They also have elongated canine teeth which can appear as small tusks protruding downwards from the upper lip.

Preferred habitat – Muntjac deer favour wooded areas, the denser the vegetation the better.

Diet – most forest foods will be eaten; fresh tree shoots, leaves, nuts, berries, acorns and fungi are all part of a Muntjac’s diet. They will also strip bark from the bottom of trees. The deer typically feed at 3 – 4 hourly intervals, consuming fresh food quickly and then retreating into the undergrowth to chew the cud.

Breeding – Muntjac deer can mate at any time of the year, there is no particular season as there is for the other British deer species. A single kid is produced 7 months after mating happens. Having given birth, the doe is in season again after a very short time and the kid is weaned after 6 – 8 weeks, and is totally independent of the mother by 6 months.

Other points – Muntjac deer originate from China and were introduced into Britain in the late 19th century. London zoo and Woburn Park in Bedfordshire were their initial place of captivity but escaped Muntjacs from Woburn have led to the British population.

The Muntjac deer of the New Forest are very few in number and extremely hard to find, not only because of their tiny size but mainly because of their preference to staying in densely wooded areas. Despite their size, they are one of the most audible deer and can bark loudly for up to 20 minutes in an effort to find a mate.

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Munjac Deer – Friend or foe?

(Taken from the Daily Mail – Written by Robin Page – 24.3.2010)

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Don’t let its seductive, doe eyes fool you. Or its glossy russet coat and Bambi looks. No, the muntjac is a wolf in deer’s clothing – and it’s taking over Britain.

In fact, so great is the threat posed by this innocent-looking creature that Wildlife minister, Huw Irranca-Davies, has included the muntjac on a most-wanted list that names and shames the six foreign invaders wreaking havoc on our countryside.

Alongside such villains as the Chinese mitten crab, the Russian zebra mussel and South American creeping water primrose, the Asian muntjac has been named Britain’s most dangerous and destructive deer.

They devour native woodland plants at a terrifying rate, destroy vital bird habitats and can go berserk if unleashed on a suburban garden. They also breed like rabbits.

But are they really all bad? The muntjac is certainly one of the strangest deer, not just in Britain, but on Earth. It is also one of the most ancient, and may have been on the menu of primeval predators 35million years ago.

Diminutive, furtive and canny, it is also one of the least studied. Originating in South-East Asia, it first set hoof in Britain as a legal immigrant in 1900, brought into the country as a plaything by the then Duke of Bedford.

But they are clever little beasts and once they were breeding at Woburn Abbey, the Duke’s Bedfordshire estate, it was only a matter of time before they found an unsecured gate through which to escape.

They have since colonised much of England and are pressing northwards, like Proud Edward’s army, towards the Scottish border. Some suspect their escape wasn’t entirely accidental and that they were released into the wild in different locations.

It is a conspiracy that remains unproved, but one thing is certain: once free, they made themselves right at home – and their numbers have boomed.

Their size is an advantage. Standing just 20in tall, they are expert at hiding away in brambles, rushes and long grass. This has enabled them to evade the hunter’s bullet – and even live on our doorsteps without us noticing.

Tiny slot marks (hoof prints) left in soft ground have exposed their presence in dozens of English towns and cities, even in locations where a live one has never been spotted.

They are more likely to be heard than seen. Also known as barking deer, they tend to bark at night and can be confused with dogs.

Sometimes they also give out a harsh, eerie scream that can be mistaken for a fox – or something worse. For those growing prize plants, this cry is an ill omen.

Oddly for deer living in Britain, they have no breeding season and the doe can give birth to a solitary ‘kid’ at any time. The gestation period is only seven months and within days the doe is ready to mate again – enabling them to reproduce at breakneck speed.

And, while they are small, they can also look after themselves. The bucks have sharp antlers, as well as tusks, which can do serious damage to a fox, dog or human.

On one occasion, a good samaritan bent down to help an injured muntjac and received a wound to his hand that required hospital treatment.

They are also brave little deer and will attack anything that threatens their young.

On a golf course in Hertfordshire recently, a golfer went to pick up a newborn kid, only to have its mother charge him from the undergrowth. As she approached – head down – he beat a rapid and undignified retreat.

A neighbour of mine once found his old labrador battered, bruised and unable to walk – the penalty for straying too close to a bramble patch where a muntjac had been tending her kid.

The old dog had to be carried home and would never return to the scene of the battering.

I have seen several muntjac on my small Cambridgeshire farm – and there will be many more hidden away. Proof of this will come when I am checking my cattle fences next month, before my cows return to the meadows by our brook.

Last year, as I was replacing a post, two muntjac burst from the rushes only 4ft away from me, almost giving me a heart attack. They had been tucked-up comfortably out of the wind on a snug bed of fallen reeds.

These little monsters leave a trail of destruction wherever they go. I have tried to introduce scarce plants onto my land, and these voracious creatures have an infuriating habit of ripping up and eating the most attractive.

For years, I have been planting ragged robin – an attractive plant that favours boggy places – but the muntjac devour them at a staggering pace.

They also gobble up rare orchids and do untold damage to new shoots in managed, coppiced woodland, destroying both young trees and our most beautiful forest flowers, such as bluebells.

And god forbid they find a way into your garden. Muntjac go wild for rose buds, and will strip your crop bare in moments.

But their destructive tendencies have a chilling impact on other species, too. The RSPB believes that muntjac, who devour many of the shrubs that birds nest in, may be causing woodland bird numbers to tumble. So what can we do?

Those who have experienced the sharp end of a muntjac’s appetite will no doubt bay for blood.

But Steve Reynolds, a deer expert and forester at Hamels Park in Hertfordshire, believes that eradicating them completely would be impossible.

‘It would be like trying to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted. It would be far more sensible to try to manage the deer population to keep numbers at an acceptable level that would allow birds, butterflies and wildflowers to co-exist with them.

‘Besides, young muntjac deer are delicious,’ says Steve, who is also an exceptional cook. ‘They’re like prime lamb, without the fat. Just rub on some mint sauce and roast – it is wonderful.’

Just make sure you eat the young animals. My father once brought home a geriatric old muntjac hit by a car. It had the texture and taste of an old boot and was quite disgusting.

It is heartening that perhaps the best solution to the muntjac problem – eating more, properly culled wild venison – is also the most rewarding. And it is worth remembering that there are other villains out there. Some foreign, many native.

The damage being done to our native wildlife by grey squirrels – introduced from the U.S. in the late 19th century and now a problem ignored by Government – is far greater than the damage caused by muntjac.

As is the chaos caused by native predators that have been allowed to get out of control, such as crows, magpies, sparrowhawks, badgers and foxes.

As a consequence, some of the most iconic birds in the countryside, including lapwings, curlews, nightingales, grey partridge and lesser-spotted woodpeckers, are being put at risk and could be heading for extinction.

So yes, the muntjac is a little monster, but don’t make them a scapegoat for all our countryside calamities. And if you really want to get your own back, just invite one round for dinner.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1259943/Muntjac-deer-threat-wildlife.html#ixzz2RbcwNoWM
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