Muntjac

Although small in stature, the Indian muntjac possesses a fiery temperament, and males will fight hard to maintain their territories. They tend to be solitary by nature.

There are no less than 15 different races of muntjac recognized through its wide range. These deer are not easily spotted, partly because they tend to be nocturnal by nature, but they are numerous. In some agricultural areas they are considered pests, because of the damage they cause to crops. If disturbed, they can utter a harsh barking call. The female leaves the fawn hidden in vegetation at first, returning regularly to feed her offspring until it is strong enough to accompany her throughout the day.

Only the males of these dainty deer carry antlers, and these rarely exceed 15 cm (6 in) in length. However, the male muntjac’s main weapons are its long upper canine teeth, which curve outwards from its lips like tusks. The teeth are usually used in fights to settle territorial disputes with other males, but can also inflict savage injuries on dogs and other attacking animals.

As well as the protruding canine teeth that are also found in a few other species of deer, the lower portions of a male muntjac's antlers are covered in fur. Instead of antlers, females have small bony knobs with a coating of fur.

Male muntjacs defend territories of around 20 ha (50 acres) in size, usually close to water, and try to encompass as many of the smaller female territories as possible. When they are nervous, muntjacs make a call that sounds like a dog barking, giving muntjacs their other common name, “barking deer”. These calls are probably aimed at predators that use ambush tactics to catch their prey. By calling, the muntjacs let the predators know that they have been spotted, and therefore are unlikely to succeed in their ambushes. Muntjacs were introduced into Britain in 1901, and feral populations have established themselves well.

Distribution: Occurs in India and Southeast Asia, extending north as far as southern China, south to the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra, and east to Borneo.

Habitat: Forest and farmland surrounded by vegetation.

Weight: 15 - 20 kg (33 - 44 lb).

Length: 122 - 152cm (48 - 60 in), including tail; up to 40cm (16 in) tall.

Maturity: Females 1 year; probably older for males.

Gestation Period: 200-220 days; weaning occurs 2-3 months later.

Breeding: 1, rarely 2.

Diet: Omnivorous, eating vegetation, fruit, fungi, as well as eggs and carrion.

Lifespan: Probably no more than 6 years in the wild, but up to 10 years in captivity.

Status: Common.

Bony ridges

These ridges, seen in both sexes, are the bases from which the male’s antlers grow.

Antlers

These are only present in the male, and grow to about 15 cm (6 in) long. They are replaced at intervals.

Canine teeth

The male’s upper canines form small tusks, up to 2.5 cm (1 in) long, which can prove lethal.

Glands

Tear glands are evident in front of the eyes.

ALERT AND ALIVE

The size of these muntjacs means they are vulnerable to many different predators, but their forest habitat provides some protection.

Gallery of Muntjac