Page last updated at 07:15 GMT, Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Little deer 'poses big menace'

Muntjac deer
The Muntjac is the smallest deer living in the UK

The sight of a small deer making its way through a Northern Ireland forest may conjure up childhood memories of Bambi.

However, according to the Environment Agency, the Muntjac deer is an invader to our shores which poses a potential threat to natural habitat and species.

It was revealed on Monday that there has been the first confirmed sighting of the deer in the wild in Northern Ireland.

A young male was spotted in County Down in June 2009. It was knocked down by a car in the Carrowdore area.

Menace

The agency believes Muntjac, which are originally from China, are such a menace it has asked for anyone who spots them to report it immediately.

According to the agency's exclusion strategy and action plan for Muntjac deer, the recommended course of action is to eradicate them.

An agency statement said: "A Muntjac Deer Action Plan was prepared by NIEA some years ago which identifies a number of actions to be initiated if a wild population is discovered. This plan has now been activated in an attempt to halt the spread of the species."

The agency has also said anyone who releases or allows the deer to escape into Northern Ireland faces prosecution under the the Wildlife Order (NI) 1985.

In addition to the County Down sighting there have also been several confirmed sightings of Muntjac in County Wicklow and more unconfirmed reports from several locations across Northern Ireland.

The Muntjac has become naturalised in England and Wales and is Britain's smallest deer.

Unlike most deer, the Muntjac doesn't live in herds, but is solitary or found in pairs.

According to the British Deer Society, Muntjac were brought from China to a park in Bedfordshire in the early 20th century.

They spread across the country after they escaped, or were deliberately released, from the park.



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