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chinese water deer

Chinese water deer are not native to Britain. They were brought over from northeast China in the early 1900s and kept in Whipsnade Zoo and Woburn Park in Bedfordshire. Several individuals escaped and successfully populated the surrounding area. Chinese water deer are fairly small animals and are the only deer species in the UK not to have antlers. Instead, the males have large canine teeth that can grow up to 6cm long and which they use to fight off other males setting foot in their territory.

During the summer, they have light chestnut fur, which turns pale grey in winter. Chinese water deer are active both day and night and often spend much of their time grazing. They remain alert at all times and rely on their sensitive hearing, smell and sight to detect any danger. They are solitary, territorial creatures and generally only get together in winter during the rutting season.

Breeding They mate between November & December and the females give birth to one litter of between two and six young the following May or June. The young fawns are able to stand up after about an hour and spend most of the next few weeks hiding in vegetation. The young have a darker, chestnut coat with rows of white spots on their back. They are weaned by the time they are two months old.

Diet Mainly grasses, sedges, rushes, herbs and leaves but also willow and bramble.

Habitat Most commonly found near reed-beds, swamps, marshes, rivers and streams.

Predators & threats The young are sometimes killed by foxes, and occasionally by stoats and crows, but many die from hypothermia. The adults have no predators in Britain, except man.

Status & distribution There are small Chinese water deer populations near the Norfolk Broads and elsewhere in East Anglia. It is thought that numbers in the UK may represent 10% of the world population of this species.

Did you know? Water deer can smell humans up to 100 metres away and will move off even if they haven’t seen the person. They sometimes run like hares, flinging their hind legs up very high behind them.

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