Latin Name: Cervus nippon
Sika were first introduced from the Far East into
Britain in 1860. Several subspecies, including Chinese, Japanese, Formosan and
Manchurian were introduced into parks but the only free living form in Britain
is the Japanese sika. It is possible that almost, if not all, English, Scottish
and some Irish living sika are descendants from one stag and three hinds
introduced to Viscount Powerscourt's deer park at Enniskerry, Eire in 1860.
In Britain several distinct wild and feral
populations now exist, some in isolated areas such as Lundy Island, but others
are found with populations of native Red Deer. In fact hybridisation appears to
be most pronounced at the edges of population ranges where both species meet. It
is said that the only pure bred Sika can be found in the New Forest and
Because they browse tree
shoots and agricultural crops, carry out bark stripping and bole scoring
(gouging with the antlers) of plantation trees this puts Sika in conflict with
farmers and foresters and many country and forest estates can gain substantial
revenue from recreational stalking and/or venison production. Sika are
becoming regarded by some as a pest in areas of conflict since the damage that
they cause is serious and the rate of hybridisation with red deer alarming.
Intermediate in size
between roe and red deer. Similar markings to fallow deer, but darker. Their
coat is a reddish brown to yellow-brown, with a dark dorsal stripe surrounded by
white spots in the summer. Dark grey to black, spots faint or absent during the
winter. Tail shorter and with less distinct stripe than fallow, and they have a
white rump. Very distinct white gland on hind leg. The have antlers typically
with 4 points, but can be up to a maximum of 8. The antlers are shed in April or
In Britain: All Year
Life Span: up to 18 years
Statistics: Stags weigh 40-70 kg, and stand 70-95cm at shoulder. Hinds
weigh 30-45kg, and stand 50-90cm at shoulder.
Habitat: Coniferous woodlands and heaths on
Food: Grazers of grasses, sedges and dwarf
shrubs, especially heather. Coniferous tree shoots and tree bark may
occasionally be taken in small quantities as well as some fungi.
Breeding: They mate between August and
October. Females give birth to a single calf after a gestation period of 7 ½
months which means young are born during early May to late June. Their young
become independent after 7-10 months.
Distribution: Native to Asia. Widespread and expanding in Scotland from
west to east with a strong population in Peebles-shire. Also a large population
in Ireland (County Fermanagh and County Tyrone). Patchy populations in England
but absent from Wales.
Behaviour: Sika are fairly unsocial, tending to be solitary for most of
the year and only form small groups in winter. They are most active at dusk.
They come together to mate and the breeding season or Rut takes place from the
end of August to November. Their environment can have an impact on their mating
strategy but typically stags defend a rutting territory, much like fallow deer,
and they may also switch to harem-holding when a group of hinds have been
assembled. When spooked they have a tendency to use camouflage and
concealment rather than flee, and have been seen to squat and lie belly-flat
when danger threatens in the form of human intrusion. Hunters and control
cullers have estimated that the sika's wariness and "cleverness" makes it three
or four times more difficult to capture than a Red or Fallow deer. They have a
wide repertoire of vocalisations with stags groaning, blowing raspberries,
yak-yak and even giving a high-pitched whistle during the rut, which can be
heard from 1km away or can emit a startling scream! Hinds with calves whine and
calves reply with a bleat or squeak. When alarmed both sexes give a short,
Conservation Status: They are not endangered.
Where to Photograph Deer
in the UK
British Deer Society