Sika Deer


ORDER: Artiodactyla

FAMILY: Cervidae

GENUS: Cervus

SPECIES: nippon

DESCRIPTION:
The sika deer are of medium size, compact, small-headed, and mostly spotted. The tail is medium long, and the simple antlers have eight to ten endings. The head and body length is 42-62 inches (105-155 cm), height is 30-44 inches (75-110 cm), and the weight is 55-242 pounds (25-110 kg).

GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE AND HABITAT:
Originally the preferred habitat in Japan was large forests with clearings, but they have adjusted well to the man-made landscapes. They are easily introduced into other countries, especially since the northern subspecies does well in the climate of Europe. In addition to European forests and parks, they now also inhabit the island of Madagascar. In Germany there are several populations living in the wild.

DIET:
Grazers who occasionally browse, eat flowers and fruit.

LIFE CYCLE/SOCIAL STRUCTURE:
Sika deer are gregarious, traveling in herds. They are normally diurnal. The rut of the northern subspecies is in November and December. The males then cry with high notes which often change into piercing sounds. The females' gestation period is seven and a half months, and the young are born by the end of June to the beginning of August. Usually only one young is born, although twins occur on occasion. The life span of the sika is 10-15 years. The record in captivity is 25 years.

SPECIAL ADAPTATIONS:
Sika deer are amazingly hardy. They thrive even in winter on scarce food without additional feeding. North American deer shed their antlers and have several months without; sikas start growing new antlers immediately after shedding the old. Sikas are highly vocal. At least ten different sounds have been recorded.

INTERPRETIVE INFORMATION:
These deer are easy to tame and thus they are popular game park animals in many places. Tame sika deer are kept in several temple regions of Japan, and people come to visit them and offer them rice cookies for food.

OUR ANIMALS:
1 Female.

STATUS IN WILD:
Only the Ryukyu subspecies is listed as endangered.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

  1. Nowak, Ronald. 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World. 5th Ed. Vol. II, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD.
  2. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants, 1992. US Wildlife Service.
  3. Docent information sheets.

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