Sika Deer

Terminology.

Male Sika deer are known as Stags.

Females are known as Hinds.

Offspring are known as Calves.

Origins and History.

The Sika deer found in Britain were introduced in 1860, originally from the Far East. There are several subspecies namely Chinese, Formosan and Manchurian and Japanese, which is the only free living Sika in Britain.

The most remarkable fact about Sika deer is that they are descendants of one stag and three hinds, which were introduced to Ennis Kerry estate in Eire in 1860.

Although Sika deer are now expanding their range and number, certain areas remain devoid of this species of cervidae. (Latin genus - deer).

Weight

The males can weigh between 40 - 70 kilos.

The females are lighter at 30 - 45 kilos.

Appearance

Standing between 30- 38" at the shoulder (dependant on subspecies) Sika are large in appearance. In the summer their coat is reddish to yellow brown colour with a dark dorsal strip surrounded by white dots. In the winter the coat dulls to a dark grey almost black and the spots are feint. The Stag produces large branched out antlers, with up to eight points. The antler appear narrower than those in Red deer, this helps with identification of Sika.

Sika are of an intermediate size between Roe and Red, they have a similar coat (pelage) to that of Fallow but lack the length of tail and the distinct dorsal stripe. Points to note when identifying Sika is that they have a white gland on the hind leg and black thumbprints inside the ears. These two markings are unique to Sika.

Habitat

Sika thrive in areas of dense cover such as woodlands and thicket especially when surrounded by open farmland.

Behaviour

Sika behave in various manners depending on the level of disturbance. In areas where they are particularly targeted they can become nocturnal, however, the usual peak time for movement is at dawn and dusk, periods in between are spent laying up in dense cover to allow them to ruminate.

It is normal to see solitary Sika stags and hinds, however both sexes can group when there is a high density, on open land or in winter.

Breeding

The Sika rut starts at the end of September, through to November. Individual stags hold harems of hinds and defend the right to them vigorously. The area used for the rutt is traditional and the dominant stag will hold exclusive rights to cover the harem of hinds. Behaviour patterns escalate during the rut and can vary from the parallel walking and screaming / groaning of two Stags to fighting. Battles usually occur between stags of the same size as they are unable to determine domination in any other way.

Injuries at this time are commonplace although fighting occurs only when other methods of assessing dominance have failed. Stags will wallow in shallow scrapes filled with water mud and their own urine, this behaviour is intended to enhance their presence amongst the Hinds and deter any would be contender from an attempt to fight.

Gestation lasts 7 1/2 months and one calf is born per pregnancy, births occur between early May and late June.

Vocalisation

Sika deer have probably the widest range of vocal displays of all the species of deer in Britain. Stags can groan, whistle, yak - yak and even blow raspberries! The scream emitted is best described as chilling and certainly unforgettable.

Hinds with calves at foot will whine, whilst calves reply with a squeak or bleating noise. Both sexes tend to bark when alarmed.

Hybridisation

In areas where both Sika and Red deer meet, ie at the edge of population ranges there is the potential for hybridisation. Because the two species are similar genetically cross breeding has happened and it is believed that there are few pure Red or Sika herds left in Britain.

The first hybrid cross has the appearance of both parents, however subsequent crosses result in the hybrid having the appearance of the dominant species. The initial hybrids are easier to cull than subsequent generations, as it can be almost impossible to tell the species apart.

There are areas where Sika are thought to be absent, therefore the local Red deer herds may well be the true, native Red.