Sympatric populations of muntjac (Muntiacus reevesi) and roe deer (Capreolus capreolus): a comparative analysis of their ranging behaviour, social organization and activity


*Correspondence to Stephen Harris


The ranging behaviour, activity and social organization of sympatric populations of Reeves' muntjac (Muntiacus reevesi) and roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) in a mainly commercial coniferous forest in eastern England were studied by means of radio-tracking techniques. Muntjac showed no seasonal changes in range size; muntjac bucks had significantly larger ranges than does at all times of the year. For roe deer there were significant seasonal changes in home-range size; bucks had largest ranges in the winter months and smallest ranges in September-October, whereas does had largest ranges during January-February and minimum ranges during May-June. There was no seasonal change in the number or size of muntjac core areas; bucks always had larger and more numerous core areas than does. Neither was there a seasonal change in the number or size of roe deer core areas; whilst there was no difference in the number of core areas for roe bucks and does, those of bucks were significantly smaller. There was no seasonal change in daily distance travelled by muntjac bucks or does, or roe bucks, but there was a significant seasonal trend for roe does, whose daily distances travelled were longest during January-February and shortest during May-June.

Spatial organization of muntjac consisted of groups of overlapping doe ranges but exclusive back ranges; these overlapped with one or more groups of doe ranges. During the summer, roe deer buck and doe ranges overlapped, and some doe ranges were shared with other adult does, but buck ranges were exclusive. During the winter, roe deer were more wide-ranging and mixed more freely. There was no evidence for spatial separation of muntjac and roe deer; minimum convex polygon ranges overlapped and core areas often coincided. Mean annual activity was 69.3 ± 1.5% for muntjac and 56.4 ± 1.8% for roe deer. Mean length of active periods was significantly greater for muntjac than roe deer, and roe deer had significantly longer inactive periods. For muntjac there were peaks of activity at dusk and dawn, with lower levels of activity during the day and night. For roe deer the dawn and dusk peaks were more clearly defined, and at most times of the year nocturnal activity was higher than diurnal activity.

These results are discussed in relation to the physiology of the two species and their patterns of space and food utilization, and the evidence for resource partitioning between the two species is evaluated. It was shown that neither muntjac nor roe deer had an effect on the ranging behaviour, activity and social organization of the other species, but that at very high densities muntjac can have an impact on established roe deer populations by changing their pattern of habitat utilization and by locally reducing their numbers.