What is a Muntjac Deer?
A Muntjac Deer is from the Cervidae family and the Muntiacus genus. This species is also known as the barking deer and Mastreani deer. This species are believed to be the oldest known Deer genus to exist. It is thought that Muntjac Deer appeared between 15 to 35 million years ago as remains of this species’ ancestors were discovered in France and throughout Germany and Poland as well. The Muntjac Deer is one of the smallest of its kind. The species grows to about 1-2 ft high at the shoulder and approximately 3 ft in length. The species is very light in weight and often weighs only 10 to 18 kg when fully grown. Unlike other deer species in Ireland, the Muntjac Deer has incredibly small antlers.
Where did it come from?
The Muntjac Deer is native to South Asia with populations located across India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Taiwan, China and some of the Indonesian islands. Additionally, they are spread across the lower parts of the Himalayas, specifically the Terai Arc Landscape.
Muntjac Deer were first reported in the wild in Ireland in 2008 but it is thought that this species were illegally introduced to our island any time between 2000 and 2006 based on the populations that were observed in 2008. As a species that has very recently been introduced to our country, it is making quite an impact on our natural biodiversity already. Although there have been a lot of reported sightings across Ireland, the only expert records of this species have been within Wicklow, Kildare, Cork, Down and Armagh.
Does it pose a threat to our native species?
Muntjac Deer are highly invasive and the Irish Biodiversity Data Centre have classified them as high impact species. When this species is present in high densities, they have the ability to change the structure of woodland layers. This negatively impacts woodland species native to Ireland as it can destroy or alter their habitats making survival difficult. This species can prevent the regeneration of trees and shrubs when present in high densities. For this reason, habitats are changed and destroyed as well as a reduction in the localised biodiversity of the environment they are invading.