Muntjac deer bucks (males) grow to 44 - 52cm at the shoulder and weigh 10 - 18kg. Does (females) are 43 - 52cm at the shoulder and weigh 9 - 16kg.
Reeves’ muntjac are small, stocky and russet brown in colour in summer and grey/brown in winter. Bucks have short (10 cm) antlers growing from long pedicles. Antlers are usually unbranched but a very short brow tine is occasionally found in old bucks. They also have visible upper canines (tusks) suggesting that they are a primitive species. Muntjac have two pairs of large glands on the face. The upper pair are the frontal glands, whilst the lower glands, below the eyes, are called sub-orbitals. Both glands are used to mark territories and boundaries. They have a ginger forehead with pronounced black lines running up the pedicles in bucks, and a dark diamond shape on does. The haunches are higher than the withers giving a hunched appearance. They have a fairly wide tail, which is held erect when disturbed.
History, distribution & habitat
Muntjac were brought from China to Woburn Park in Bedfordshire in the early 20th century. They are now widespread and increasing in number and range. Deliberate releases and escapes from Woburn, Northamptonshire, and Warwickshire led to the establishment of feral populations. Movement and release by humans led to their rapid spread across south and central England and Wales, however, north of the Humber distribution is patchy but reaches close to the Scottish border.
Muntjac like deciduous or coniferous forests, preferably with a diverse understorey. They are also found in scrub and overgrown urban gardens. Unlike other species of deer in Britain, muntjac do not cause significant damage to agricultural or timber crops. However, high densities may prevent coppice regeneration and the loss of some plants of conservation importance, such as primulas. Muntjac trophy hunting has only recently become popular so there is little tradition of muntjac stalking on country and forest estates. The most significant direct economic impact that muntjac have on human interests is in collisions with cars. However, this has welfare as well as economic implications.
Breeding, behaviour & lifecycle
In contrast to all other species of deer in Britain, muntjac do not have a defined breeding season (rut). Instead, they breed all year round and the does can conceive again within days of giving birth. Bucks may fight for access to does but remain unusually tolerant of subordinate males within their vicinity.
Does are capable of breeding at seven months old. After a gestation period of seven months, they give birth to a single kid and are ready to mate again within a few days.
Bucks can live up to 16 years and does up to 19 years, but these are exceptional.
Muntjac are generally solitary or found in pairs (doe with kid or buck with doe) although pair-bonding does not occur. Bucks defend small exclusive territories against other bucks whereas does' territories overlap with each other and with several bucks.
They are known as ‘barking deer’ from the repeated loud bark given under a number of circumstances. An alarmed muntjac may scream whereas maternal does and kids squeak.
Muntjac are active throughout the 24-hour period but make more use of open spaces during the hours of darkness in populations subject to frequent disturbance. Peak activity is at dawn and dusk. Long periods are spent ‘lying up’, where the deer lies down to ruminate after feeding.
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The BDS works hard to promote the welfare of UK deer through education, research, and best practice deer management.
Muntjac – Managing an Alien Species by Charles Smith-Jones (2004) Coch-y-Bonddu Books
Stalking Muntjac by Graham Downing (2014) Quiller Publishing