Thursday, 29 April 2010

Muntjac deer in our garden

Muntjac, also known as Barking Deer, are small deer of the genus Muntiacus. Muntjac are the oldest known deer, appearing 15-35 million years ago, with remains found in Miocene deposits in France and Germany. A small family (one male, two females) shows up in our garden most evenings, to graze on the lawn and drink from the pond at Homelands bed and breakfast.
The present-day species are native to Southeast Asia and can be found from India and Sri Lanka to southern China, Taiwan, Japan (Boso Peninsula and Oshima Island), India and Indonesian islands. They are found in the eastern Himalayas. They are also found in Myanmar. Inhabiting tropical regions, the deer have no seasonal rut and mating can take place at any time of year; this behaviour is retained by populations introduced to temperate countries.
Muntjac has been introduced to England, with wild deer originating from escapes from Woburn Park around 1925. Muntjac have expanded very rapidly and are now present in most English counties south of the M62 and have also expanded their range into Wales. The British Deer Society coordinated a survey of wild deer in the UK between 2005 and 2007 and reported that muntjac deer had noticeably expanded their range since the previous census in 2000. It is anticipated that muntjac may soon become the most numerous species of deer in England and may have also crossed the border into Scotland with a couple of specimens appearing in Northern Ireland in 2009 also they have been spotted in the republic of Ireland in 2010, almost certainly with some human assistance.
Males have short antlers, which can re-grow, but they tend to fight for territory with their "tusks" (downward pointing canine teeth). The presence of these "tusks" is otherwise unknown in native British wild deer and can be discriminatory when trying to differentiate a Muntjac from an immature native deer although Chinese Water Deer also have visible tusks but are much less widespread.
Muntjac meat is the finest type of venison available in the UK. There is no specified closed season for hunting  because of their ability to breed at any time of year. In addition to that they are considered an ‘invasive species’ and ‘pest’ by the conservation organisations, due to the enormous damage they can cause to crops and woodlands. 

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