Menace of the muntjac approaching say experts

EXPERTS believe it is only a matter of time before an alien species of deer starts to creep across the border and into local gardens, fields and forests.

The Reeves muntjac, also known as the barking deer because of the noise it makes, was introduced to Britain from south-east Asia during the late 19th century century, when the 11th Duke of Bedford released several into Woburn Park.

A number of escapees in the years since has led to an explosion in their numbers. They are now one of most widespread deer in the UK and starting to push towards the Scottish border.

No bigger than a springer spaniel, the muntjac, holds its rump higher than its shoulders. It has large eyes and a long tail which is held upright when it is alarmed.

Cute, perhaps, but the problem is they can be very destructive, eating almost anything that is planted. The muntjac’s diet of tender shoots and woodland flora, as well as its taste for rose gardens, means it has become one of the country’s most unloved foreign introductions.

Muntjacs are regarded by farmers and timber growers as little short of vermin. Most people only see a live one when they swerve to avoid it as it wanders out from the edge of the road at dawn or dusk.

The species is believed to be involved in a large proportion of the 60,000 collisions between deer and vehicles which occur each year on England’s roads, costing around £17 million in insurance claims.

If muntjacs invade Scotland in numbers, the cost of dealing with them has been estimated at as much as £1.9m a year.

A report commissioned by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) on how to deal with deer spreading to Scotland said the cost of eradicating muntjac could range from £3,683 to £60,625 each time for populations of up to 200 animals.

Muntjac could arrive by spreading through north-west of England to the Solway Firth, or could head for patches of favourable habitat around Kielder, Berwick and Dunbar, said the report.