Sika deer are native to islands of Japan and Taiwan and were first introduced into deer parks and private collections in the UK in 1860, from where they subsequently escaped or were released. The colour of their coat varies but it is generally chestnut brown and spotted in summer and almost pure grey in winter. They have a characteristic white patch of fur, outlined in black, beneath their short white tail. Stags have relatively simple antlers which generally have four points on each antler. The antlers are cast each year in April or May. Sika deer are mostly solitary and are most active at dusk. They seem sensitive to human disturbance and only venture into more open areas at night. Sika can cause damage to commercial forests when they gouge deep, vertical grooves into the trunks of mature trees, which they do to mark their territory.
Shoulder height: 80 – 120cm
Weight: 40 – 60kg
Lifespan: Up to 15 years
Mating occurs from late August to October and a single fawn is born in May or June. The young become independent after 6 – 10 months.
Mainly grasses, sedges and heather, but also fungi and bark.
Coniferous woodland and heath, but also deciduous woodland.
No natural predators in the UK.
Many young do not survive their first winter because of exposure and starvation. Many populations are closely managed in an attempt to control numbers.
Status & conservation
Non-native and locally common.
Population size & distribution
GB population 11,500 (Scotland, 9,500; England, 2,500); Ireland, 20,000 – 25,000. The population has continually increased over the last 20 years. In England, there are populations along the south coast, in Hampshire and Dorset, and in the Lake District and Lancashire. No populations are thought to be established in Wales. Most of the populations in England and Scotland are in fact hybrids of sika and red deer; those in the New Forest in England, and around Peebles and Moray in Scotland however are thought to be still pure bred.
Did you know?
Sika deer are very vocal animals and during the mating season, males make a sharp whistling call, which can be heard up to 1km away.