A Muntjac deer
Muntjac make Birmingham their home
If you see an exotic shy creature with a reddish brown coat, the changes are it's a Muntjac. Dr Stefan Bodnar and Tamsin Lunt have been lucky enough to have encountered the smallest deer in England.
Dr Stephan Bodnar, the Biodiversity Officer for Birmingham City Council, tells us about the Muntjacs around Birmingham...
One of the more exotic creatures that is becoming a regular sight around Birmingham is the smallest deer in Britain, the Muntjac.
A Muntjac deer
Originally from China and Taiwan, these little deer, have a luxuriant reddish-brown summer coat and protruding canine teeth looking like tusks.
Released from Woburn Abbey around 1900, this dainty little creature has spread and colonised all of Warwickshire and now can be found across Birmingham, sometimes to local people's joy and amazement, when they come across them in suburban gardens in areas such as Sutton Coldfield and Hodge Hill.
The males have small antlers about 3" long and the female can be distinguished by having a dark kite shaped dark patch on their head.
In a recent survey of nocturnal creatures along the waterways of Birmingham, Muntjac were spotted in areas such as Sheldon, Woodgate Valley and Sutton Park. They have penetrated as near as 2 miles from the City Centre and have been recorded in Edgbaston.
A charming addition
Even when they are in good numbers, this charming addition to the UK list of fauna are rarely seen, being shy, nocturnal and living mainly alone in dense bushes. Bucks defend small territories against other males. Female territories overlap with each other and with several bucks.
The silhouette of a Muntjac
Unlike some introduced species, the Muntjac has colonised with few negatve effects, except in high numbers where its grazing can inhibit woodland regeneration and they frequently fall victim to car collisions.
A common name for Muntjac is 'barking deer' resulting from the vocalisation they give under a number of circumstances, an alarmed Muntjac screams.
Bright eyes & little footprints
The best way to check for them at night is to scan areas with a strong torch held to your face at eye level, if you see two bright green eyes reflecting back this may well be a Muntjac (cats eyes tend to be yellow in reflection).
Their footprint is a very small slot, much like an arrowhead, with uneven pad sizes, each set typically set about 12" apart, can sometimes be seen on mud and in snow.
Often the Muntjac are seen at dusk or early dawn near to or along railways, canals and river valleys. We think that these connective green elements within the city are critical for this species to move from different sites to mate and feed, and reinforce the importance of maintaining the green connectivity within the whole city landscape.
Dr Stephan Bodnar.
Tamsin was thrilled to see a Muntjac
Tamsin Lunt has first hand experience of seeing Muntjac: "While accompanying Stefan on a Bat survey in May in Sheldon Park, I was delighted to have an encounter with two Muntjac! I was extremely surprised to see them in a more urban area.
"I've encountered Muntjac before in my own woodland back garden in Tidbury Green (Solihull). It was during the winter when snow covered the ground and they came within at least 20 feet from the house.
"I've also seen them several times disappearing into the hedgerow whilst travelling home late at night.
"It really is remarkable to think that these creatures are so close to our homes without us even being aware of them. If you wanted to see one, maybe all you need to do is take a walk in the local park".
Have you spotted any wildlife?
Have you spotted any wildlife visiting your local area? Do you have a nature story? If so, get in touch.
last updated: 19/06/2008 at 14:17