Species Guide - Muntjac Deer

20th May 2013
People are always asking me how to get close enough to the animals I often photograph. Some assume its with the use of huge expensive lenses, and its true this is one way to help get close. However, even a 600mm lens will not get you close to wildlife if you don't have some degree of field craft.

In this series I will look at individual animals, where to find them and how to get close. Most important of all I will help you to do this while causing minimum stress or inconvenience to the animals themselves.

This feature will hopefully become a regular and I will produce it as often as other work commitments allow. Please let me know what you think, and feel free to email me with any additions if you have them.

I will begin this series to a fairly new resident to the UK.

REEVES MUNTJAC (Muntiacus reevesi)

The Muntjac deer is now resident across much of the UK but is on the whole difficult to see. It prefers dense mixed or deciduous woodland, sadly your first sight of one may be at the side of the road after being hit by a car.

They are most active at dawn and dusk, browsing on bramble, ivy fruit and nuts. Beech mast seem to be a particular favourite around my area. Unlike Red deer and Fallow these are tiny being around the same size as a medium sized dog. They also seem to be strangely proportioned, the front legs appearing shorter than the back, giving them a hunched appearance

The image above shows one of the field signs for Muntjac deer. Saplings are frayed at a low height, bark may also be stripped with there incisors which leaves a charactoristic twisting of the bark at the top.

The image above show Muntjac scat. These are rounded or cylindrical, sometimes with a point at one end or both. They measure 10-13mm by 5-11mm and scatter when they hit the ground.

Following are my top tips for getting a sight of these elusive little deer.

Get there early - As with most wild animals they will try and avoid contact with us. Get there while its still dark if taking pictures at dawn and if you prefer the evening wait around until everyone else has headed home. I can gaurantee that as soon as the first dog walker has passed through the wood your chance will be gone.

Pay particular attention to the wind direction - If there are differnet entrances to the woodland make sure you use the one with the wind in your face. Like all deer they have a keen sense of smell and if your scent is blowing towards them they will quietly slip away.

Wear dark coloured clothing - You need to try and blend in with the background as much as possible. Although deer tend to rely on smell rather than sight they are good at detecting movement.

Know Your Route - All deer have excellent hearing, I have come to know every inch of the woodland rides in my local woodland. Take every step with care, don't rush, slow right down. If you stand on a brittle twig it will sound like a pistol shot in a pre-dawn woodland. If you know the path you can also navigate round any gravel patches, which tend to sound like walking on rice crispies in the early morning.

Beware Crossroads - Do you know whats round the corner? When you approach the joining of paths, carefully sneak a look around the corner. If you stride out without thinking the rustle of vegetation is all that will greet you rather than a deer, fox or stoat.

Click on the Link Below to Listen to a Male Muntjac


Stop and Listen - I always stop and listen quietly every ten paces or so. We tend to rely on our vision too much. The stop also allows you to plan out the next part of your route. As you will see here the male muntjac makes a very destinctive sound.

Do not Disturb - As much as possible I try to leave the deer undisturbed. Often they will get bored and move off into the undergrowth. Let them do this rather than leaping up when you have your picture and causing them to leap startled into the undergrowth.

Please get out there and give it a try. many of the tips above work very well for other woodland creatures. Have fun!

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