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Sika Deer

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 Peebles-shire.

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.

  See Larger Image Female Sika

See Larger Image Sika Stag


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 May.

Animal Facts

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 acid soils.

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 months which means young are born during early May to late June. Their young become independent after 7-10 months.

Conservation Status

Least Concern

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, high-pitched bark.

Conservation Status: They are not endangered.


See Also

Deer Topic Index

Where to Photograph Deer in the UK 

Photographing deer

Wikipedia - Sika Deer

British Deer Society

Deer Commission for Scotland


By: Tracey Park Section: Wildlife Key:
Page Ref: sika Topic: Deer Last Updated: 03/2010

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