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Home / Hunting / Game Guide / Hoofed Mammals / Sika Deer


Hoofed Mammals
Sika Deer
Cervus nippon


A medium-size deer. Various shades of brown; many white spots on back and sides in 7 or 8 rows; spots more pronounced in summer than in winter. Center of back darker than sides, forming a dark band from head to rump. Large white rump patch. Underparts whitish or gray. Buck has narrow, backward-directed antlers, with 2-5 points per antler. Antlers 12-26" (30-65 cm) high, 1" (2.5 cm) in diameter at base. Juvenile is spotted. Ht 3'-6'3" (88-190 cm); L 3'11"-5' (1.2-1.5 m); T 3-5 1/8" (7.6-13 cm); HF 12 1/2-14 1/2" (31-36 cm); Wt male 110-309 lb (50-140 kg), female 88-132 lb (40-60 kg). Similar Species White-tailed Deer somewhat larger and not spotted as adult.


Breeds late September-December; after gestation of about 7 months, 1 young born May-August.


Forested areas with dense undercover, but adaptable to many habitats. Does well on Assateague Island in marshes and thickets.


Native in Japan, Manchuria, Taiwan, Korea, and adjacent China, but widely introduced in the U.S.: eastern shore of Maryland; Assateague Island, off coast of Maryland and Virginia; small numbers in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin; large herds in Texas.


The Sika Deer is mainly nocturnal, but may be seen during the day. On Assateague Island, it often grazes while standing in water. This deer uses a stiff-legged gallop at lower speeds and a stiff-legged quadrupedal hopping at higher speeds. At lower speeds, it can make jumps up to 30 feet (9 m) long. At higher speeds, it has all four feet 1 foot (.3 m) off the ground at once; in one stride it can leap up to 20 feet (6 m) in length, and up to 5 feet (1.5 m) in height. As with other deer, the Sika Deer eats many species of plants, but primarily feeds on grasses in summer and on woody plants in winter. It has at least 10 vocalizations, including soft whistles between females, goat-like bleats from doe to fawn, horse-like neighs from fawn to doe, loud screams from males during the rut, and alarm calls from both sexes. The Sika Deer is not very gregarious; single individuals are seen about as often as small herds. Territorial behavior is initiated by the adult male in summer. He digs holes up to 4 feet (1.2 m) wide and 1 foot (.3 m) deep with his forefeet and antlers, then urinates in the holes; these, plus thrashed ground, designate territorial boundaries. Fierce fighting may occur between rival bucks, and males may attempt to drive females into their territories, where mating occurs. A successful male may mate with up to 12 females. The male does not feed until late in the rutting season; the female moves between male territories and does feed during the breeding period.


Cloven hearts, slightly smaller than those of White-tailed Deer.


Scat: Dark pellets similar to those of White-tailed Deer.


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