Mammals. Deer. There are several species, including the magnificent sambar (Cervus unicolor) which can be up to 150 cm at the shoulder. Sambar live on wooded hillsides in groups of up to 10 or so, though solitary animals are also quite common.

The much smaller Chital or spotted deer (Axis axis), only about 90 cm tall, are seen in herds of 20 or so, in grassy areas. The bright rufous coat spotted with white is unmistakable; the stags carry antlers with three tines.

Oxen. By far the most visible member of the family is the domesticated Water Buffalo (Bubalus bubalis), widely seen in the coastal districts. The Indian Bison or Gaur (Bos gaurus) looks superficially like a large buffalo. The 'state animal' of Goa, this massive animal can be up to 200 cm tall at the shoulder, with a heavy muscular ridge across it. It usually lives in forested uplands. There are large herds in the Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary and as far south as Canacona.

The Wild Boar (Sus scrofa, known in Goa as Ran Dukar), although declining in numbers, is found in the foothills of the Ghats, and has the reputation of causing immense damage to paddy, banana and sugar cane crops.

One of the most important scavengers of the open countryside, the Striped Hyena (Hyena hyena) usually comes out at night. It is about 90 cm at the shoulder with a large head with a noticeable crest of hairs along its sloping back.

The Sloth Bear (Melursus ursinus), about 75 cm at the shoulder, lives in broken forest and has been seen in the Cotigao Sanctuary and Surla ghat. Unkempt and mangy looking, it has a distinctively long and pendulous lower lip.

The Big cats. The Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary, Goa's largest wildlife park, is reputed to have 18 panthers. A few tigers are known to stray in occasionally from neighbouring Karnataka in the summer but are rarely seen. Despite their greater numbers panthers have the reputation of being even more elusive. The smaller species include the Jungle cat (Felis chaus), Leopard cat (Felis bengaliensis), Small Indian Civet (Vivirrecula indica).

The Indian Elephant (Elephas maximus). Although not normally found in Goa, a wild elephant is occasionally seen in the Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary or the Bondla National Park when they wander in from neighbouring Karnataka during the summer months.

The Common Giant Flying Squirrel (Petaurista petaurista) which inhabits the Western Ghats, is found around Valpoi and the Bhagwan Mahaveer and Cotigao sanctuaries. The body can be as much as 45 cm long and the tail another 50 cm or so. They glide from tree to tree using a membrane stretching from front leg to back leg which acts like a parachute. Indian Giant Flying Squirrel (Ratufa indica) is noticeable by its strange call.

In addition to the animals that still live truly in the wild there are many species which have adapted to village and town life. India's various monkeys are rare on the coastal strip but inland they are far more common. The Common Langur (Presbytis entellus) is a long tailed monkey with a black face, hands and feet which lives largely in the forest. The Bonnet Macaque (Macaca radiata) is more solid looking with shorter limbs and a shorter tail, and has the distinctive whorl of longer hairs on the head. They are seen both in forests and near villages. All monkeys can be aggressively demanding and are carriers of rabies, so should be kept at a distance. Food, which invariably attracts them, should be kept concealed.

Palm squirrels are very common. The Five-striped palm squirrel (Funambulus pennanti) and the Three-striped palm squirrel (Funambulus palmarum), both about the same size (30 cm in length, about half of which is tail), look very similar. The five-striped squirrel is the one usually seen in towns.

The two bats most commonly seen in towns differ enormously in size. The larger is the so-called Flying Fox (Pteropus giganteus) which has a wing span of 120 cm. They roost in large noisy colonies, often in the middle of towns or villages, where they look like folded umbrellas hanging from the trees. In the evening they can be seen leaving the roost with slow measured wing beats. The much smaller Indian Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus coromandra), with a wing span of about 15 cm, is an insect eater. It comes into the house at dusk, roosting under eaves and has a fast, erratic flight.

The Common Mongoose (Herpestes edwardsi) lives in scrub and open jungle as well as in gardens and fields. It kills snakes, but will also take rats, mice, chickens and birds' eggs. Tawny coloured with a grey grizzled tinge, it is about 90 cm in length, of which half is pale-tipped tail.

Sea mammals. An increasingly popular activity from several points on the Goa coastline is dolphin spotting. Both the Long-beaked dolphin (Steno spa) and the porpoise (Phocaena phocaena) are common right along the coast, and the Dugong or Sea Cow (Dygong dugon) is also found. Goa Handbook. Robert & Roma Bradnock.

Small deer

small deer