A RARE deer has been spotted in woodland near Samlesbury causing a mixture of delight and concern.

Muntjac deer have been seen at Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s Nab Wood reserve, and at Mere Sands Wood, near Southport.

The trust believes that the small, stocky, brown deer may have been released from private herds nearby.

Nab Wood is close to the Brockholes reserve and the deer spotted there are believed to be part of a herd that has been seen around Samlesbury.

John Haddon, Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s south Lancashire reserves officer, said: “While this is good news for nature lovers who like to spot wildlife, it may not be so good for native species.

“Muntjac’s are an ‘introduced’ species and they can do a lot of harm in woodland, eating native plants like bluebells and primulas.

“They tend not to eat agricultural crops and saplings in woodland like other deer in the region.

“They are not easy to spot and could easily be mistaken for dogs.

“They are small compared to roe deer and do not have the distinctive white tail like roes.”

Muntjac deer were released or escaped after being introduced to Woburn Park, in Bedfordshire, in the early 1900s.

They rapidly spread across south England and Wales, but other escapes from private collections have added to numbers. They are commonly known as barking deer, because of the noise they make.

Previous sightings have been in the South and Midlands and muntjacs have been spotted in Cheshire, South Merseyside and there is a report of one in a garden in Salford.

Anyone hoping to see muntjacs should keep an eye out in woodland around dawn and dusk when they are most active.