The owls are hooting their hearts out at the moment, but their age-old melody is often punctuated by less-familiar sharp barks. They are relatively new sounds in the countryside, and come from the muntjac deer, which escaped into the wild from Woburn in 1894 and has, in the past decade, seen its numbers explode.
Muntjac are extremely secretive and rarely seen except when flushed on shoots, but they are becoming ubiquitous and have reached the centre of many towns. Originally from South-East Asia, they’ve been described as the ungulate equivalent of the brown rat, which may be a little harsh, but they cause considerable damage to plants and vegetation. Tiny, standing at about the same height as a labrador, muntjac have a hunched appearance and little of the beauty of our native species. They also breed all year round at an alarming rate.
However, their greatest accolade is that they are simply delicious to eat and the meat is ridiculously cheap. The venison tastes sweeter than other native breeds, but has all the lean credentials that make venison so healthy. We would be doing ourselves and the countryside an enormous favour if we ate more of them. Your butcher should be able to oblige.