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The barking deer

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Jody Bourton Jody Bourton | 08:57 UK time, Friday, 3 October 2008

Some animals are just plain cute. So cute in fact that you just want to have one!

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Well this is how I felt when I first saw the muntjac deer. Known by some as the 'barking deer' due to its habit of making a terrier type yapping noise, it's in fact an alien species to these shores and was first introduced in the early part of the 20th century.

Muntjacs were originally brought all the way from China to deer parks such as Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire and subsequently escaped, quickly establishing successful feral populations in the wild.

Their tenacity and ability to breed all year round means they've spread to many parts of England and Wales. They can be found in surprising places and even in urban environments being spotted next to motorways and in parks.

They're pretty small - about the same size as a dog. The males have small antlers and a distinct 'v' shape on their faces. But the real funny feature of the muntjac is their tiny little tusks. They're kind of like a cross between a small deer and a warthog I suppose!

They're incredibly skittish and wary and you can understand how they've managed to survive simply by blending into the background. They're also solitary, so unlike other deer species you're not going to see huge herds of them.

We went filming them for the new Autumnwatch series that I'm working on at the moment. It was pretty tricky-going for our cameraman as they're such secretive animals. But finally, after many painstaking hours and a bit of good fortune he got some great footage of a male muntjac barking (as you an see from the video clip).

In this case it's probably barking or yapping to sound an alarm but they also do it to make a challenge and to sound their location to other deer.

So, for its secretive nature and unusual looks, the muntjac is definitely a favourite deer of mine. Also, I suppose the simple fact that you may be lucky enough to spot one in the countryside or even in you local parkland! So, have you ever seen any? Drop me a line using the comment form below.

Here's my pick of this week's wildlife web:
Big Cat Live comes to our screen soon all the way from the Masai Mara in Kenya but it's already started on the web! It looks great and my pal Chris is there to tell you what's going on in camp.

What's on:
Minibeast hunt in Newport

Some Halloween themed wildlife events happening on 28 October.


  • Comment number 1.

    I live in Crockerton near Warminster in Wiltshire and mutjac deer are seen quite regularly in the forest areas nearby (Longleat forests) and adjoining fields, I often hear then barking in the early mornings.

  • Comment number 2.

    A Muntjac visited my garden this afternoon at 4pm mooching around leaving footprints in the snow. This occurs quite often at different times of the year and they always nibble at my plants and stay quite a while.
    the grounds of County Hall Hertford Herts is a haven for wildlife. Many animals and birds come into my garden.

    Four Badgers feed just a few feet from the windows almost every day of the year, the baby is getting quite a size now

  • Comment number 3.

    I live in a north Bedfordshire village (post code MK44), and we used to have a gentleman muntjac who would take his morning constitutional, sometimes barking, sometimes not, down our high street. It was usually when there weren't too many people about (well, maybe just me and my daughter). He wasn't too skittish. He would sedately walk away if we got too close. I would often watch him from my bedroom window if I weren't outside. I haven't seen him in a couple of years. There are so many muntjac in our area, it's unusual if you don't see one!

  • Comment number 4.

    Muntjac Deer are very common in Norfolk and Suffolk. They are often seen dead on the side of the roads. I often see more than one on my trips down the A11.

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi l live in Ruislip Middlesex and have seen in my garden and in the Park Wood behind my house male and female Muntjac Deer also l have heard them Barking at night l spoke to the wood ranger today he thinks that there about 12 deer in the local woods around here

  • Comment number 6.

    I must live in the same road as flyingrobert2 and we too have heard the barking for a long time. Some time ago, I asked the warden and at that time he said he thought they were foxes. Hearing the barking on Autumnwatch, there is no doubt it’s the muntjac in Park Wood. We’ve had them in our garden, along with foxes and even the occasional badger.

  • Comment number 7.

    I work as a Veterinary Nurse in Stroud and often see Muntjac Deer. We stay overnight and are often up all night and can see them entering the carpark which backs onto woodland.

    They stay for quite awhile and don't mind when you go out into the car park in the early morning!

    We are often visited by foxes and badgers also stroll across the front of the practice at night. If we do get to sleep it willl be the owls which will keep us awake!

    Love the series, can't wait for Spring Watch!


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