12 days of a (wildlife) Christmas - Nine Muntjac prancing

WildNet - Amy Lewis

Traditionally for the ninth day of Christmas we would be receiving nine ladies dancing but instead we’ve changed it to nine Muntjac prancing instead.

Muntjac deer, which are also known as barking deer due to the sound of the calls they make, are a small species of deer that can be found living happily in urban as well as rural settings. With the male buck only slightly bigger and heavier than the female doe, they can be sexed from each other by the presence or absence of antlers as males have small antlers that sit on a base like feature called a pedicle. The male will shed these antlers yearly growing himself a new set each year around May time.

Unlike other species of deer in the UK, Muntjac deer do not have a rutting season and they breed throughout the year producing one offspring at a time. They also prefer to live in solitude or very small family groups such as a female with her kid or a male and female pair. Males are territorial and whilst they can have several females in their territories, they will tolerate males less so. The males will scent and mark trees by rubbing their glands found on their foreheads on trees.

Muntjacs are vocal and will bark to communicate with each other and they are known to scream when frightened. The doe and kid will also communicate via a serious of squeaks.

Although they are active throughout the day and evening they are mostly active during dawn and dusk and they do have long periods of rest hunkering down usually after they have eaten.

Muntjac footprints

Muntjac deer are a secretive species and their presence is often noticed by their footprints and droppings that they leave behind.  They have the smallest deer footprints of all the deer species in the UK measuring a tiny 2cm wide by 4cm in length with the outer toe always slightly longer than the inside toe. Last month we had great fun finding these and then making plaster castes of them.

Muntjac footprint plaster caste

Like most species of deer, their droppings can be identified by the pointed end and small and pellet like. Searching for Muntjac deer poo always provides a fun activity for groups and we are usually “lucky” enough to find some in the orchard in Holywells Park.

Muntjac deer droppings

Why not challenge yourself this Christmas and see if you can find the tell-tale signs of Muntjac deer on your wintery walk and look for their footprint and droppings. You might just be lucky enough to find some!