Update, 11.04.11: There have been no reported sightings of a Muntjac deer according to Berkeley Animal Services. “We have had phone calls, but nobody has said they have seen this deer,” said BACS Officer Stevenson. She added that she had been to César Chávez Park to look for herself and that it is possible that a dog was mistaken for the miniature deer. “It’s a dog park, so there are lots of small four-legged animals. In one way I hope it’s not there. But in another I hope it’s there as I would like to see this deer,” she said.
Animal experts are calling on the community to keep an eye out for the animal, which is tiny and easy prey for larger animals, including dogs, and to call in sightings as the deer needs to be trapped and taken care of.
“Muntjac deer are an Asian species and a popular exotic pet. They need hot weather to survive and are very tame, so easy to hunt and kill,” said Winnie Kelly, a wildlife specialist at San Rafael-based Wildcare. “It’s very important that we get a hold of this animal.”
The Reeves Muntjac is one of the smallest species of deer in the world; they only stand about 24″ tall, even as adults. “It’s about the size of an Italian greyhound,” said Kelly. “A large dog could easily kill this deer.” She added that the deer is “adorably cute”.
Kelly said the organizaion had received three separate calls about sightings in the past 48 hours — one from a woman who recognized the species because she had seen it at a zoo.
Wildcare believes the deer was let loose in the park by its owner. Keeping Muntjac deer as pets is illegal in California. If an animal services organization is able to find the animal it will likely be offered to a zoo or taken out of state to a warmer climate.
According to Kelly, it is common for people to “dump” their pets at both César Chávez Park and Point Isabel in Richmond. “Owners assume other dog owners will take care of them,” she said.
Kelly said if a member of the community spots the deer, they should not chase it and keep dogs away. If it is possible to get close to the deer, throw a blanket over it and call Berkeley Animal Services (BACS) at 510-981-6600. They should be able to come and take the animal. Alternatively, call WildCare on 415-456-7283. After hours, for emergencies only (5pm to 9am): 415-300-6359.