Muntjac deer

by James Alexander-Sinclair

Yesterday I was wandering back from the compost heap minding my own business when there was rustling in the undergrowth and out shot ... a muntjac. Harrumph.

Muntjac deerI'm spluttering with indignation.

In the dozen or so years that we've gardened here, I've boasted that we've been almost completely free of mammalian vermin: a rabbit emerged once but our two (very efficient) Tibetan terriers soon resolved the situation. Suffice to say that some of that rabbit reappeared in the kitchen a couple of hours later.

Yesterday I was wandering back from the compost heap minding my own business when there was rustling in the undergrowth and out shot … a muntjac. Harrumph. All that Christmas goodwill just flew out the window. The cheek of the thing.

The Reeves's muntjac is a small (about 45cm high) and extremely impertinent deer (we're surrounded by woods so we often see them). Unlike all other deer species, they're not blessed with any cutesy 'bambi' traits. They have stubby little antlers and a face that looks like it's been recently operated on by a woefully under-qualified plastic surgeon. Reeves muntjac are also known as barking deer because of their rather unattractive call — they sound as if they habitually smoke at least 60 untipped cigarettes a day. The first deer were brought over here from China to amuse the Duke of Bedford at Woburn. A combination of deliberate releases and escapes has led to them becoming pretty widespread, especially around the midlands.

Muntjac are not friends of the gardener and are quite capable of doing a fair bit of damage, not only to the soft shoots of emerging plants but can also strip bark from trees. You can deter them from entering your garden with decent fencing. The RHS have a list of plants that are less likely to be eaten by deer, which includes the very curious fact that they don't generally eat berberis, except for purple-leaved varieties.

Failing that they make very good eating; muntjac is basically venison but in a more manageable size. There is a good recipe here.

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Gardeners' World Web User 31/12/2008 at 22:00

Hi all, not sure if you can help me but I have recently stared to keep Orchids after being given 2 as gifts, I really like them but have found that although they develop what look like healthy buds these all fall off at several stages of developement but all before opening? I am not sure why this is and seem to be finding it very difficult to find any reference to why this might be? Can you tell me where I might be going wrong please? Thanks very much Jayne

Gardeners' World Web User 02/01/2009 at 11:04

We have muntjac in the field behind our garden and I'm personally delighted to wake up to the sight of such lovely wildlife. Muntjac do eat everything, but why the desperation for perfection in our gardens? We read everywhere of how we should be encouraging wildlife in our gardens so I think it's rather shortsighted to be wanting rid of them simply because they eat a few of our plants.

Gardeners' World Web User 16/01/2009 at 10:48

We often hear the Muntjac bark when we take the dogs out late at night, it's an eerie sound which travels across the fields like a wraith on the prowl, actually I am rather pleased they are around along with the foxes and badgers ( I'm saying nothing about the furry slugs with four legs, the rabbits). BUT I've lost two young columnar cyprus trees and a Cornus Kousa because they have eaten the bark on them - blasted things! I suppose I'm the sort that would take a photograph first and say "ah how sweet" whilst raising the shotgun to my shoulder.

Gardeners' World Web User 28/03/2009 at 13:56

we have a pet red deer who my husband found abandoned over twenty years ago. she eats anything and everthing, we have no compost heap because she gets it all. although she has a warm shed to go into, back in feb when we had all the snow i got up several mornings to snow covering everything including her - she was laying down in the field covered in snow, she clearly does not feel the cold the same way we do.

Gardeners' World Web User 07/09/2009 at 15:57

We live out in the middle of nowhere, and the deer eat us alive. I got my husband to make me a homemade deer deterrent after every single veggie I owned got chomped on last year (and we tried all of the usual solutions to no avail.) I'm not sure how suburban you are --- probably wouldn't work in suburbia --- but if you're desperate and not too close to your neighbors, you might give it a shot. We scrounged around and made ours for pennies and it's 100% effective! I wonder if it would work for Muntjac?

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