One of the first Cornish records for the Reeves’ muntjac was an animal seen in the garden of the Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s offices outside Truro.
Reeves’ muntjac is the Cornwall’s smallest deer, not much bigger than a labrador, they are 45-52 cm high at shoulder and weigh between 10 and 18 kg when fully grown.
Typically russet brown in summer, they moult to grey-brown in the winter. The belly and throat are somewhat paler. Adult
males often have darker, almost black forelegs. When alarmed, the long dark tail is raised to reveal a white patch underneath. Both males and females have dark markings on the face - in males the dark line along the nose opens into a ‘V’, whereas in females there is a diamond-shaped marking on the forehead. Their back legs are longer than their front legs, giving them a characteristic ‘rounded back’ appearance. Males have short (10cm), straight, backwards pointing antlers that are cast in early summer and regrow by the autumn. The long pedicles, from which the true antlers appear, remain all year. Males also have protruding upper canine teeth. Both sexes have conspicuous dark markings beneath each eye, these are scent glands, used extensively to mark territories.
Muntjac are often called ‘Barking deer’ due to their habit of giving repeated loud barks that can travel long distances.
Unlike most other UK deer, muntjac are solitary. They can be seen at any time of day, but are most active at dawn and dusk. Muntjac like plenty of cover, and prefer woodlands and thickets with a dense understory. They are very adaptable however, and are commonly found in urban areas such as scrub and overgrown gardens. Muntjac are very selective feeders, taking tender leaves from a variety of plants. Their diet includes brambles, herbs, ivy, heather and coppice shoots.
Bucks defend large territories of 20-30 Ha against other males and these territories encompass the territories of several females. Territories are often held by the same individuals for many years. Males, especially those equally matched, will fight using a combination of head-to-head clashes and slashing with canine teeth. Wounds may be deep and often become infected. Dominant males secure access to females within their territories and sometimes further afield.
There is no mating season and females can breed year round, giving birth to a single kid after a 7 month gestation period. Females often breed in their first year and are ready to mate again within a few days of giving birth. The doe will aggressively defend her fawn and even chase off large dogs if they approach to closely. Animals in captivity may live for up to 20 years, although in the wild 10-12 years is more likely. 75% of all animals die in the first 3 years.
The muntjac has no significant predators in the UK, although fawns are frequently taken by foxes. Road deaths are common, and due to their increase in numbers, the species is controlled by shooting in some areas.
Field surveys for tracks and signs. Traffic casualty monitoring. Deer management returns. Hunt returns. Muntjac are very distinctive and can be easily distinguished from other UK deer species. The most common recording methods are direct observation of live animals, and road kill.
This solitary and secretive deer is most often seen by the roadside, frequently as a traffic casualty. The tiny tracks, less than 3 cm long, are smaller than any other adult British deer and when clear prints are present it can be seen that the
cleaves (hoof halves) are of unequal size. The small faecal pellets (each less than 1 cm in length) may be may be
separate or accumulated and are often deposited in shallow scrapes under cover. In densely populated area multiple animals may use a single latrine area. Regular runs through dense vegetation, about 60 cm high and 20 cm wide may be found.
© Dave Thomas
Did you know?:
The Reeves’ muntjac takes its name from John Reeves, inspector of tea at the British East Indian Company. The first Muntjac in the UK arrived in Woburn Abbey in 1840. Deliberate releases and escapes from wildlife parks mean that they have now colonised much of southern and central England.
© David Chapman
© Jenny Hobday
Although relatively few records are currently on the ERCCIS database, Muntjac are increasingly reported by deer stalkers and woodland managers around the county. There are reports of this distinctive deer from shooting, photographic and wildlife websites. Established in central and southern England and spreading, Reeves’ Muntjac is native to southeast China and Taiwan.
Not under threat. Considered a pest in some areas, particularly in managed gardens. Muntjac have a particular impact on woodland regeneration and many native plants, especially bluebells.