WARNING: This article contains some GRAPHIC IMAGES.
What appears to be deer remains have been found in Reading Cemetery, prompting fears that the small population of muntjac, or ‘barking deer’, have been harmed.
On a visit to the cemetery last Sunday, your writer came across the leg and lower back of a small deer. With others still seen alive, it is thought just one has been fatally harmed.
It is known that a small population of rare muntjac deer inhabit Reading Cemetery, at Cemetery Junction, having first been introduced to Britain in the early 20th century. Deliberate releases and escapes have led to sparse feral populations across the country; a far cry from their native south-east China and Taiwan.
But the images below are a worrying sign for the population in Reading. The circumstances by which the deer died is unknown. Indeed, a post on local community group ‘ ‘Friends of Cemetery Junction’ has produced a number of possible reasons.
Some postulate it is the work of a large dog, but this does not account for the scattered remains. Others remember that a few years someone was stopped from trying to catch or shoot the deer for their meat. A Daily Mail article from 2011 suggests the meat is “delicious” and as sought after as venison for some celebrity chefs such as Nigella Lawson.
Meanwhile, others have suggested that the deer may have been hit by traffic on the busy Cemetery Junction nearby. One resident remembers talking to a bus driver who said that deer are often seen crossing the road in the early hours.
The condition of the remains is also troublesome. One resident points out that when butchering a carcass, “you would cut through the knee joint [and] remove the tail when gutting”. This has clearly not happened on this occasion.
With scattered remains (the leg and lower back were a few metres apart) and no sign of a large carcass, your writer suspects that the deer was hit by traffic, allowing for an easy meal for nearby foxes and smaller wildlife. Rob White, one of the ward councillors for the Cemetery and member of the Green Party, tells me he will pass on the information to the council in order to find out more.
Berkshire Wildlife Trust are also unsure what could have happened. Daniel Akam, Community Wildlife Officer, tells me: “It is hard to say exactly what would have happened and we do not have any information on it.
“My best guess was that it was either ill or injured and had been got by some foxes. That would probably explain the random body parts although you would expect to see more of a mess if it had been killed and consumed in situ.”
One resident has sent photographs to the Ecologist at Reading Borough Council for more information.
It is thought there are between 3 and 6 muntjac deer in Reading Cemetery. The peak times of activity are generally at dusk and dawn, but they are out and about at all times of day. Unlike many other deer, muntjac deer do not have a fixed breeding season. Instead, they reproduce continually throughout the year, starting from as young as eight months old.
If you have any information on what might have happened please contact Jamie at firstname.lastname@example.org or Rob White, Park Ward councillor, at email@example.com.