The Sika Deer also known as the spotted or Japanese Deer is an introduced species in the UK. It is one of the few deer species that does not loose its camouflaging spots when becoming an adult and this is the key method of identification in the UK. The animal stands up to 37 inches tall (just under a meter) at the shoulder and weighs in at around 150lbs for a large full grown male. They display a range of fur colour from deep reds to black which becomes darker and longer during the winter; the males also develop a mane during the rutting season
Male Sika deer have thick upright antlers while females sometimes have a set of black bumps on their forehead. Antlers can be up to 30 inches in length and are sometimes used in traditional Chinese medicine which normally uses the dried antlers which are fully developed. Sikas are active throughout the day but where humans are present they tend towards nocturnal. Sika Deer are very vocal and have been recorded making over 10 different sounds from barks and whistles to braying screams and even blowing raspberries. Sika Deer have been known to live up to 18 years.
The Sika is actually a native of East Asia but has been widely introduced around the world. Sikas prefer temperate woodland which often borders land suitable for farming so is frequently threatened. In The UK the wild population stems from an introduction in the 1860’s when King Edward VII gave a pair of Sika deer to Baron Montagu of Beaulieu, these escaped and a population developed in the New Forest. In the UK Sika’s are now widespread mainly in Scotland spreading from west to east, less common in England and Ireland and totally absent from Wales
The Sika Deer is regarded as a very challenging prey animal for sport hunters. Notable differences in behaviour can been in animals in Asia and those in Britain and Ireland. The Sika respond very differently to threat than most UK species using concealment even lying flat on their bellies rather than fleeing danger as a Red Deer would do. Those involved with culls and hunting estimate a Sika can be three or four times more difficult to take down than other UK deer species both in locating and getting a clear shot being much harder to kill with a single shot. In the UK with no natural predators they are a threat to Woodland and year round culling is used to control numbersMale Sika deer keep a harem of females during the breeding season (September/ October) and guard their territory fiercely, marking the boundaries with shallow scrapes which they then urinate in to scent mark. Fatal fights between rival males are not unknown with territories covering up to 5 acres. A single calf (occasionally twins) is born between May and June.