The Muntjac deer also known as the barking deer due to sound they often make in the wild is the smallest of the British deer species but it is not a native. The Muntjac has spread prolifically since it was introduced from China in the early 20th the first examples were imported to Woburn Park and then to other Parks in Hertfordshire and Northamptonshire. Escapees from these parks have thrived and population has expanded greatly in number and range.
Muntjacs are very small and agile and due to their size and barking noise have sometimes been mistaken for wild pigs when seen in the wild. A Buck weighs at most 18Kg being at most 52cm at the shoulder but normally around 46cm with the females (does) being 1 to 2 Kg lighter and about the same size. They are stocky with a russet brown summer coat and a more grey brown winter coat. Their antlers are short (at most 10cm) and normally un-branched they have a slightly hunched appearance due to having haunches higher than their withers with a wide tail which stands up right when they are disturbed.
They are known to utter a loud bark used for various social signals but when alarmed they often squeal or squeak which often adds to misidentification by an observer of that of a wild pig. A buck normally lives till 16 years with the exceptional Doe reaching up to 19 years old in the wild.
Muntjacs do not form large herds and are normally found alone or in small pairs with either male and female or a female and a single young. The Bucks defend small territories of around 14 hectares.
The species has thrived since the escaped population and numbers have risen rapidly. In the UK they can be found in south and central England (I have seen examples in north Warwickshire) as well as some areas of Wales. Populations in northern England become patchier but they are thought to have reached the Scottish border areas. They are forest dwellers at home in coniferous or broadleaf forests but like a diverse ground cover to feed on. They can also be found on scrub land and in over grown gardens in some urban areas as they are fairly adept at scaling small panel fences to get at garden flowers.
Muntjac are not a particularly destructive species and do little damage to trees or crops as they normally feed on shrubs and grass but will eat heather, ivy, brambles and herbs (I have also seen them enter a garden to eat the heads of roses), like most deer they will strip bark but this is not a major part of their diet and as they are solitary in the main this does not cause a great deal of damage. They are active at any time but will only use open ground when it is dark. After feeding they will spend long periods resting and ruminating. They are small enough to fall prey to predators such as domestic dogs but the main cause of death is due to impacts with cars.
Unlike all other British deer species Muntjac do not have a defined Rut but can breed all year round and can become pregnant again within days of giving birth which has helped the rapid rise in wild population. The does are capable of breeding once they reach 8 months old and pregnancy lasts around 7 months but only a single young (kid) is produced.