Four species of deer are found in Bangladesh: spotted deer, barking deer, sambar deer and hog deer.
The spotted deer is our most common deer. Among the sixty-odd deer species of the world, it has to be one of – if not the – prettiest. Its luxurious reddish-brown coat is decorated with white spots. An adult spotted deer can be large, up to five feet in length. The males have long antlers that attain full growth during breeding season.
Spotted deer are found in Sundarban, where leaves of Keora trees are their favourite diet. From a distance, the bottom of the green crown of some Keora trees often appear pruned to the same height. This is the height that a spotted deer’s teeth can reach while it stands on its hind legs. In Kotka, when the tide is low, large herds of spotted deer come in search of leaves of Keora tree. When the tide rolls in, the herd rushes from the area into higher elevations inland out of tide’s reach. Most people visiting Sundarban get at least one view of this deer.
Outside of Sundarban, I have also seen spotted deer in the planted mangrove forests of the coastal island Nijhum Dwip. Once, the island’s deer population was large. But when I went in 2017, I had to search much harder for this deer than I ever had to in Sundarban.
The barking deer – also known as muntjac – is an uncommon mammal of Bangladesh. It resides in the forests of Sylhet and Chittagong Hill Tracts. It is a small deer the size of a calf, about three or four feet in length with a plain brown coat. On its face there is a V-shaped bony ridge. There are dark lines that run along this ridge, creating a facial pattern. It is extremely shy and, in my experience, emerges mostly at dusk. Males have two short antlers with sharp pointed tips. I saw them at a watering hole which they approached with extreme caution and left immediately after drinking.
Our other two deer species are rare.
With a length of five feet, the sambar deer is our largest deer. Its coat is plain brown. Males have large antlers; both males and females have a mane of hair on the throat. It resides in the forests of Sylhet and Chittagong Hill Tracts. This nocturnal creature is very hard to find.
The hog deer is our rarest deer, considered critically endangered. In fact, it was declared extinct in Bangladesh in 2000. But a few individuals have since been found. It lives in remote locations of the Hill Tracts. It is roughly about the same length, but somewhat shorter than, the spotted deer.
In the past we had a deer called barasingha in Sundarban. It is mentioned in the book The Vanishing Forest by Guy Mountfort as being extirpated by the 1960s.
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