Sika deer

Sika deer

Cervus nippon

Common name:

Sika deer

Scientific name:

Cervus nippon

Alternative common names:


The sika deer is one of the few deer species that does not lose its spots upon reaching maturity. Spot patterns vary by region. Itis active throughout the day, but in areas of heavy human disturbance they tend to benocturnal. Seasonal migration is known to occur in mountainous areas. They are found in temperate forests, preferring areas with dense understorey plantings and where snowfall does not exceed 10 – 20cm. They tend to forage in patchy clearings of forests.

Additional Information

Where does this species come from?

Japan, Taiwan and China.

What is its invasive status in South Africa?

NEMBA Category 2.

Where in South Africa is it a problem?

Eastern Cape, Free State and Limpopo.

How does it spread?

They escape from their range.

Why is it a problem?

Sika deer are a serious forest pest. Damage is due to ringbarking (especially during harsh winters), browsing, trampling, antler rubbing, erosion due to creation of trails and degradation of water quality in creeks and streams. Mature trees may also suffer additional damage through bole-scoring (gouging with antlers). In open grassland and/or wetland areas, sika deer can cause significant change in vegetation structure and species composition of both plants and animals.

What does it look like?

Description: Small to medium-sized deer. Adult males are larger than females; females weigh 25-45kg, males weigh 40-110kg; height at the shoulder is 950-1 400cm). They have relatively simple antlers. The summer coat is chestnut or fawn, marked with white spots. The most distinctive characteristic is a white caudal patch outlined in black. The young are spotted. These herbivores feed mainly on foliage, forbs, twigs and many grass species, switching from grazing to browsing depending on the environment.

Habitat: Grassland and tall forb habitats, woodland and forest habitats.

Breeding: The breeding season of the sika deer, known as the rut, typically occurs in autumn. Fierce fighting often occurs between rival males, who all try to drive available females into their territories where mating takes place. Successful male sika deer may mate with as many as 12 females, and may be so intent upon finding females that they do not feed until later on in the rutting season.

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