The Reeves Muntjac ( Muntiacus reevesi ) is a small stocky deer , with a distinctive haunched appearance , with a rusty brown coat which turns a dull shade of grey in winter. The Muntjac was named in 1812 after John Reeves of the East India Company. This non native species originated in south east Asia and was introduced to Britain by the Duke of Bedford at Woburn Park, Bedfordshire in the early 20th century. Wild populations quickly established from both escapees and deliberate releases.
Muntjac deer have proved highly successful at establishing themselves in the British countryside. They are found throughout the country, although with fewer numbers in the north and west. Muntjac deer were originally residents of deciduous and coniferous woodland. Increasingly however they are being found in more habitats throughout the country, and are now present in urban areas and gardens with shrubby borders. They prefer areas with a diverse range of low-level dense vegetation.
Standing at around half a metre tall at the shoulder, when fully grown males or bucks weigh between 10 to 20 kg as adults and females or does weigh 8 to16kg. Muntjac males have small antlers on top of a long fur-covered base (pedicle). These are usually straight with no branching. The face of the male is striped with pronounced downward black lines, light coloured cheeks and very large facial glands below the eyes. The ears are oval-shaped. Does have no antlers and a dark crown patch on their heads.
Muntjac are often solitary animals or found in buck/doe pairs, or with their young. Small territories are held year-round by bucks, but they are generally tolerant of other males nearby. Does’ home ranges overlap and cover several bucks’ territories. The deer are active throughout the day and night but are most likely to be active at dawn and dusk.
Unlike other species of deer in the Uk the Muntjac does not have a set rutting period and can mate throughout the year. The female or does are capable of breeding at seven months old and breed all year round. Does produce a single fawn after a gestation period of seven months. A doe is ready to mate again days after giving birth leading to a potentially rapid population growth. Fawns are weaned after eight weeks. The average life expectancy in the wild is 10-14 years.
Diet varies depending on where the animals live. They browse small amounts of nutritious plants such as herbs and shrubs.
Muntjac cause relatively little damage to commercial vegetation. However, due to their increasing numbers and density they are becoming of significant environmental concern. The most significant issue with their proliferation is the increase in road traffic accidents with threats to both humans and welfare of the animals themselves. Muntjac adults have no natural predators. Foxes will occasionally take a young fawn. Listed as least concern, muntjac numbers are healthy. Infact, it is thought that they may well become the most numerous species of deer in England.
Here, too, they are starting to be a problem in some places. They were once released on private domains for hunting purposes. Now they cause considerable damage to nature and crops.