Reeves Muntjac are a non native dog-like deer species whose population is spreading rapidly across the country. They are secretive and because of their size can conceal themselves quite easily – much more easily than other deer. Muntjac were first introduced from China to Woburn Park in Bedfordshire in the early 20th century. Releases and escapes from Woburn and both Northamptonshire and Warwickshire has lead to large feral populations across the country. There is a zero tolerance policy towards these deer in the New Forest as they compete for the same territory as the native Roe and could drive them off the Forest in much the same way as the grey squirrel deposed the red squirrel from the area. Muntjac are quick to exploit new habitats and rapidly increase in number
Males (bucks) and females (does) are small and stocky – 44 to 52cm at the shoulder. Their pelage is russet brown in summer and grey brown in winter. The bucks have short antlers (10cm) which are cast each year in May/June and visible upper canine teeth like small tusks. They have a ginger forehead with pronounced black lines running to the base of their small antlers in bucks and a dark “V” shape in does. Their haunches are higher than their withers which gives them a hunched appearance. Their tail is fairly wide and is held erect when disturbed.
They are long lived (exceptionally up to 16 years) and can breed at any time of the year with the does coming into season again within days of giving birth. They are sexually mature at eight months old and have a gestation period of 7 months.
Another name for the Muntjac is the “barking deer”as a result of their repeated loud bark. An alarmed muntjac may also scream and maternal does and kids communicate by squeaking. They prefer woodland with a dense understorey in which to hide. Whilst they cause no more damage to timber than other species their browsing is particularly damaging to coppice regeneration and is the cause of the loss of some plants of conservation importance, such as primulas and bluebells.
Muntjac produces good venison but in view of their habit of hiding in dense undergrowth, stalking of the species has yet to become commercially viable in the UK. The most significant issue with the rapid increase in their numbers is in road traffic accidents.
In view of the delicate balance required in maintaining the unique nature of the New Forest, the Muntjac is an unwelcome visitor and an unwanted non native species of deer.
View the British Deer Society – Muntjac Deer Distribution Survey