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CHINESE WATER DEER: MORE RECORDS NORMA G . CHAPMAN

The sightings of Chinese water deer at Minsmere (TM 4667) in 1989 (reported in Suffolk Natural History 1990) were of interest, particularly as there are no records in East Norfolk south of TG 3030 (R. Hancy, pers.comm.) although they are well established in the Broads. However, Mr. Macklin's sighting was not the first for the county. Over two years earlier, in mid-January 1987, an adult buck was killed south of Brandon on the road that connects the A1065 and the B1112 (TL7484) a few km from both the Cambridgeshire and Norfolk boundaries. It was taken to a Forestry Commission Ranger (D. Green,pers.comm.). On 26 May, 1989, Nick Gibbons (pers.comm.) saw a water deer in Shadwell Carr (TL 892838), across the R. Thet from Kilverstone Wildlife Park. The Park's owner drew Nick's attention to this escapee. Water deer had been within the Park since it opened in 1973. This location is in Norfolk but only 3.5 km north of the Suffolk boundary. On 27 November of the same year I examined a fatally injured male water deer, aged five to six months, which had been taken to Thetford Police Station, but whether it had been knocked down in Norfolk or Suffolk was not known. An adult female hit by a vehicle on 8 November, 1990, was well within Suffolk, on the Newmarket Road, Bury St Edmunds (TL 8364). Earlier that year there was a report from the Euston estate, only 5 km south of Kilverstone. I have no details but the record was regarded as reliable by Hugh Rose, the deer manager for the estate. An additional sighting was made in May 1991 when Harry Hall (pers.comm.) was Walking his dog as usual at dawn in Mildenhall Woods (TL 7274). On first seeing the deer in the distance he thought it was a muntjac which, like roe, he sees frequently, if not daily. On using his binoculars he realised this deer was different. He watched it walk down the steep bank of the Cut-off Channel and swim west towards the picnic area. Large tusks were visible. Having discussed this Observation with Mr. Hall I am statisfied that this was a male Chinese water deer. So, to date, there are at least two live sightings and two road fatalities of water deer in west Suffolk. The likely source of these would appear to be Kilverstone Wildlife park. Whether there are sufficient water deer at liberty in the breck/fen edge to establish a population remains to be seen. The areas of most suitable habitat are small and scattered patches of fen and carr rather than extensive reed beds as in the Norfolk Broads. Where some populations are established in woodland in Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, broad-leaved trees predominate and the deer, which are primarily grazers, also forage in adjacent arable fields. The commercial coniferous forests which account for most of the woodland in well-drained breckland are not likely to be a suitable habitat. However, where water deer do find a suitable niche their reproductive potential (multiple births are normal) may enable them to build up a population quickly. We should at least be alert to the possibility. The 1968 Norfolk Mammal report stated that

Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 28 (1992)


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Suffolk Natural History, Vol. 28

. . there seems little chance of this species becoming established in the county'. Admittedly this was written a few years after two escapees, both male, from a private collection had been killed on a road in the Broads. The origin of the present well established population there is uncertain. Further reports from any part of Suffolk will be eagerly awaited by our Biological Records Centre to where any information relating to accidental escapes or deliberate releases should also be sent as these are essential to make any sense of future distribution records. Norma G. Chapman, Larkmead, Barton Mills, Bury St Edmunds, IP28 6AA

Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 28 (1992)


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u ยง c Plate 5: Heads (right to lefi) of Roe Deer, Chinese Water Deer and Muntjac for comparison. (p. 1)

Chinese water deer: more records  

Chapman, N. G.

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