In an Education Quizzes blog last week we learned that there are over two million deer roaming wild in the UK. Most of the time they are shy and elusive but one species, muntjac, are becoming ever-more prolific and ever-more adventurous.
In the early 1800s there was not a single muntjac in the UK so Woburn Abbey decided to import a few from South-East Asia for use as “parkland ornaments”. The deer were content to live in their magnificent surroundings for around 100 years but then a few adventurous souls decided there was more to life than even a great 3,000 acre estate could offer and they planned an escape. Since then the feral population has exploded with some authorities estimating that there are now over 1.5 million of them.
With large areas of countryside disappearing under roads and houses the little muntjacs looked longingly at the luscious flowers and vegetables in urban gardens. What better way to spend the early hours of a morning than munching your tender pea and bean shoots along with their favourite dessert of roses? Now they are increasingly common on the outskirts of towns and will even venture deep into urban areas if the gardening is good enough for their taste. However, don’t be tempted to venture too close to one because they are renowned for their mighty powerful kick!
An unfortunate side effect of their adventurous nature is that they often use roads to traverse between eating places. It was recently reported in the Daily Mail that over 40,000 road accidents a year are attributed to muntjacs. Cute they may be but their road sense is close to non-existent.
Joining muntjacs to make a “tremendous trio” of deer introductions from the Far East are sika and Chinese water deer. Both of these have been introduced to the UK within the last 150 years but neither of them have adapted so well to our conditions. Although both species are fairly widespread they are usually shy and it is very unlikely that you will find them chomping their way through your garden.
Next week we will look at the 3 species of deer that have inhabited our islands for much longer than the imports mentioned above. In the meantime, you might like to try our Nature quizzes. We have over sixty of them devoted to all things ecological, from plants and trees to birds and mammals. Why not see just how much you really know about the natural world?