'ASBO Bambi': Aggressive muntjac deer multiplying across Northern Ireland
The 'ASBO Bambi' has moved into a new phase of its invasion of Northern Ireland.
That's the stark warning from Queen's University expert Dr Jaimie Dick, who said a year-and-a-half ago that the aggressive muntjac deer was living and breeding almost unnoticed.
And now he is convinced that an accident on the outskirts of Belfast is proof the deer is spreading across Northern Ireland and moving into parks and gardens.
The accident in question happened after a male muntjac strayed onto the carriageway at the Comber Road-Grahamsbridge junction in Dundonald and was hit by a car, leaving the two women inside badly shaken.
While Dr Dick admitted there had only been few sightings of the animal in the past couple of years, he said he was convinced this was the tip of the iceberg.
"I have been saying that muntjac deer are spreading and multiplying and that it will get to the point where they will start causing road accidents," he added.
"They are moving into urban areas where there are fast roads, and they will feed along the road verges. People will think they are dogs and will swerve to avoid them – motorcyclists will be killed instantly. This is quite a significant event in the story.
"We are going into dispersal from where they were introduced, probably at multiple locations. They are breeding in the wild, (but) will live in your garden – even in the middle of Belfast – and they will attack dogs."
The deer are only the size of a springer spaniel, but the males have sharp antlers and canine fangs, and populations can explode to more than 100 animals per square kilometre. And as well as attacking dogs, they can be dangerous to people.
In England, they have caused deaths and serious injuries in car crashes, with deer responsible for 74,000 collisions a year. The cost of dealing these can run into millions of pounds.
Dr Dick warned that unless action was taken, we could face a similar situation here.
"Failure to act now will mean substantial annual costs for us all in future years," he said.
"We will have to deal with the impacts on our forests and forestry, loss of biodiversity, damage to designated sites, damage to crops, the spread of disease and road-traffic accidents inevitably resulting in human injuries and perhaps fatalities."
The expert also told how proper surveys were needed to get a clearer picture of how many muntjac deer were actually living in Northern Ireland.
Dr Dick also urged the authorities to come up with focused and efficient culling techniques to keep the number of the animals under control.
He further asked members of the public who believe they have spotted one to contact him at email@example.com.
The PSNI said it was aware of the accident on the Comber Road.
A spokesman added: "On Monday, September 15 at approximately 11.40pm, police received a report of a member of the public coming across a dead deer at the side of the Comber Road.
"Police attended the scene and the carcass of a Vietnamese muntjac was collected by the relevant authorities."
The tiny, non-native muntjac deer is the smallest in Britain and has copper-brown fur, with darker markings on the legs and face. Males also have antlers in the autumn, although these are straight and short at around 10cm. Bucks have large canine teeth which are used in fighting. Muntjac originate in China but were introduced to Bedfordshire in 1838.