Country & Coast: The flower-munching miniature deer

Walk quietly through Yorkshire's woods, and who knows, you might spot a newcomer to the local fauna.

The smallest British deer species, the exotic Muntjac, is in town.

At night, you might hear them barking with a repeated wheezy bark; all part of their territorial behaviour.

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Sightings are still relatively rare but they are increasing.

I was down in the Moss Valley woodlands recently and caught sight of two smallish mammals, about the size of a large brown hare but with a quite rounded back and distinctive creamy-white rear end (or "target" to the deer stalkers!). Blink and they were gone. A search of the area revealed the tracks of this tiny deer, and also scatterings of fresh droppings. There were signs too of recently nibbled vegetation. Not everyone is happy to have this alien species in the local woods as they have a reputation for damaging the highly prized woodland ground flora. In some extreme cases they have stripped sites bare of Bluebells and orchids.

As yet though, the numbers around South Yorkshire are still quite low and any serious impact on wild flowers is very limited.

Professor Ian D. Rotherham, directs the Geography, Tourism and Environment Research Unit at Sheffield Hallam University. Contact ianonthe [email protected]

CW 22/5/10