Reeve's muntjac (Muntiacus reevesi)
|Size||Head and body length: 64 - 90 cm (2)|
Shoulder height: 40 - 49 cm (2)
Tail length: c. 10 cm (3)
Antler length: 7 - 8 cm (3)
|Weight||11 - 16 kg (2) (3)|
- Unlike many other deer species, Reeve’s muntjac breeds all year round.
- After being introduced to England as an ornamental animal for private estates, Reeve’s muntjac individuals escaped and formed established populations in the wild.
- Reeve’s muntjac gains its common name from John Reeves, a British naturalist who lived in China in the early 19th century.
- Also known as the ‘barking deer’, Reeve’s muntjac makes a sharp barking sound when it is alarmed or in danger.
Reeve’s muntjac is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).
Reeve’s muntjac (Muntiacus reevesi) is a small, stocky deer with a rounded body, slender black-brown legs and a primarily red-brown pelage (2) (3) (4). The creamy-white fur on the lower surface of this deer extends onto the neck and chin, as well as onto the underside of its short, reddish tail (2) (3). The face is generally a pale tan colour and the forehead and nose are black (3). A distinct black stripe extends along the back from the nape of the neck (2).
The male Reeve’s muntjac can be differentiated from the female by the presence of short, simple antlers and small, tusk-like canines (3). The female has small bony lumps on the forehead (3), and a localised black pattern, which is also present on the forehead of the fawn (4). The spots on the dorsal surface of the fawn function to aid camouflage against the dense vegetation it uses for shelter when it is very young. As the individual ages, it loses the spotted pattern and gains its adult colouration (2).
Also known as the ‘barking deer’, Reeve’s muntjac makes a sharp barking noise, which is thought to be used when it is alarmed or in danger, although it may also serve as a warning to predators, or as a means of communication (3).
There are three known subspecies of Reeve’s muntjac: Muntiacus reevesi jiangkouensis, Muntiacus reevesi reevesi and Muntiacus reevesi micrurus (1). The subspecies differ slightly in appearance, with M. r. micrurus being darker and richer in colour than the other subspecies (2).
Reeve’s muntjac is native to Taiwan and central, south and southeast China (1) (2) (3) (4). M. r. micrurus exists only in Taiwan, and the other subspecies are found in mainland China (1). There are also introduced populations of Reeve’s muntjac in England and Wales (1) (4).
In its native range, Reeve’s muntjac is generally found in dense woodland in tropical and semi-tropical regions (1), as well as in rocky areas and open pine and oak woodland (1) (2). This species will mostly live in areas which have access to steep ravines where it is able to take cover (1) (2). In Taiwan, M. r. micrurus is found between elevations of 50 and 3,500 metres, with population density generally decreasing as altitude increases. M. r. micrurus inhabits primary forest areas with dense canopy cover and usually avoids steep terrain (1). In non-native areas, Reeve’s muntjac may also be found in urban parks and large gardens (4).
Reeve’s muntjac is a primarily crepuscular species, with most activity occurring in the two hours before sunrise and after sunset, although diurnal and nocturnal activities also occur (1) (3). The largely herbivorous diet of Reeve’s muntjac consists of flowers, nuts, berries and fungi (4), although this species is also known to eat carrion and eggs (3).
Reeve’s muntjac lacks seasonality in reproduction (1), with polygynous mating and births occurring throughout the year (1) (2) (4). The female is sexually mature within its first year of life (1) (2), after which it may be pregnant continuously (1) (4). The gestation period usually lasts between 209 and 220 days (1) (2) (3), after which a single fawn is usually born, although two occasionally occur (3). The fawn remains hidden in dense vegetation until it can move around with the female (2). The fawn is fed by the female for the first two months, after which it is fully weaned (3). Reeve’s muntjac can live for up to 17 years (3).
Reeve’s muntjac is mostly solitary, although it is occasionally found in pairs or small family groups (1) (2) (3). Each individual occupies a home range of around 100 hectares, and these are known to overlap significantly and do not vary in size between the sexes (1) (2). The home ranges of female Reeve’s muntjacs overlap much more than those of the males, which indicates that the female is not as territorial as the male (2). The male often has to defend its territory from other males, and uses its antlers to fight, although its sharp canines are much deadlier. The male and female use secretions from their preorbital glands to mark their territories (3).
Reeve’s muntjac is hunted for its hide, which is used to make chamois leather, and it has been heavily exploited for this industry (1). In its native habitat, many people hunt this deer for food, especially in Taiwan where M. r. micrurus populations showed severe decline after demand for meat increased (5). Population numbers in many areas have been significantly reduced due to habitat loss, which can be attributed to the creation of new agricultural land, urbanisation and logging (1). Collisions with vehicles are a frequent cause of mortality in its native and non-native range (4).
In its non-native range, Reeve’s muntjac poses a threat to its woodland habitat, reducing its biodiversity and preventing the growth of trees, shrubs and ground layers. This species has also been known to graze in woodland with rare plants and areas with growing crops, which can cause economic losses. Some landowners now offer sport shooting on their land to offset the economic losses they have suffered due to the adverse effects of Reeve’s muntjac. As well as threatening the non-native habitat, its presence also affects native species, with populations of roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) being known to vacate areas where there is a large population of Reeve’s muntjac. The alteration of woodland structure also poses threats to other animals that rely on specific features of a habitat for food and shelter, such as birds and butterflies. This species also causes tens of thousands of road traffic accidents each year in England and Wales (4).
In China, this species is not protected by law, but is protected in certain provinces by regulations. Reeve’s muntjac may also occur in some protected areas (1), although there are not currently known to be any other conservation measures in place for this species. In Taiwan, it is necessary to develop an effective management strategy to ensure that any hunting of M. r. micrurusis done at a sustainable level (5).
Find out more about Reeve’s muntjac:
BBC Nature - Reeve’s muntjac:
Ultimate Ungulate - Reeve’s muntjac:
Find out more about Reeve’s muntjac as an invasive species:
GB Non-native Species Secretariat (NNSS): Factsheet - Reeve’s muntjac:
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- Carrion: the flesh of a dead animal.
- Crepuscular: active at dusk and/or dawn.
- Diurnal: active during the day.
- Dorsal: relating to the back or top side of an animal.
- Gestation: the state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
- Herbivorous: having a diet that comprises only vegetable matter.
- Home range: the area occupied by an animal during routine activities, which is not actively defended.
- Nocturnal: active at night.
- Pelage: the coat of a mammal, composed of fur, hair or wool.
- Polygynous: a mating system in which males have more than one female partner.
- Preorbital glands: an organ that produces a secretion, situated in front of the eye socket.
- Primary forest: forest that has remained undisturbed for a long time and has reached a mature condition.
- Subspecies: a population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
- Territorial: describes an animal, a pair of animals or a group that occupies and defends an area.
- Territory: an area occupied and defended by an animal, a pair of animals or a group.
IUCN Red List (October, 2013)
- Smith, A.T. and Xie, Y. (Eds.) (2008) A Guide to the Mammals of China. Princeton University Press, New Jersey.
Ultimate Ungulate - Reeve’s muntjac (October, 2013)
GB Non-native Species Secretariat (NNSS): Factsheet - Reeve’s muntjac (October, 2013)
- Hsu, M.J., Agoramoorty, G., Desender, K., Baert, L. and Bonilla, H.R. (1997) Wildlife conservation in Taiwan. Conservation Biology, 11(4): 834-838.