Sika deer (Cervus nippon)
|Size||Male weight: 40 - 70 kg (2)|
Female weight: 30 - 45 kg (2)
Male shoulder height: 70 - 95 cm (2)
Female shoulder height: 50 - 90 cm (2)
The sika deer is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1). In the UK, it is locally common and an increasing introduced species (3). Under Schedule 9, Section 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it is illegal to release this species into the wild (4).
The sika deer (Cervus nippon) has a greyish-brown coat in winter, which becomes lighter in colour in summer, with light spots and a dark stripe along the back (4). There is a white rump-patch bordered by black. The antlers differ in shape from those of red deer (Cervus elaphus) in that the front spikes point forwards rather than towards each other (4).
Introduced to British deer parks from Japan in 1860, the sika deer is now widespread in Scotland and occurs more patchily in England and Northern Ireland. It does not occur in Wales (3).
Tends to prefer deciduous and mixed woodlands with dense undergrowth, on damp ground where the soil is acidic (3). The sika deer also occurs in commercial conifer plantations, gardens and farmland (4).
This species is active throughout the 24-hour period, but in areas disturbed by humans they tend to be more active under the cover of darkness (2). They may occur either solitarily, or in single-sex groups where population densities are higher (2), and large herds may gather during autumn and winter (3). Sika deer browse on trees and shrubs, and also feed on grasses, sedges, holly, conifers, fungi, acorns, bark, heather and ivy (3). This species causes a great amount of damage, being a serious pest of woodland and farmland (4).
During the breeding season, or 'rut', which occurs between late August and October, males occupy territories and compete for access to females (3). These contests involve vocalisations such as screaming, parallel walking and eventually fighting, which can result in serious injury and even death (2). The successful stags then mate, and hinds (females) give birth, usually to a single calf, in May and June (3).
Introduced sika deer crossbreed with native red deer, causing hybridisation where the two species occupy the same range. This poses a threat to the red deer as it dilutes the gene pool (3).
This introduced species is not threatened; its populations are managed under the Deer Act of 1991 in England and Wales, and under the Deer (Scotland) Act 1996 in Scotland. Under Schedule 9, Section 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it is illegal to release the sika deer into the wild (4).
No conservation action has been targeted at the sika deer.
For more information on sika deer:
The British Deer Society:
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- Deciduous: a plant that sheds its leaves at the end of the growing season.
- Hybridisation: cross-breeding with a different species.
- Territory: area occupied and defended by an animal, a pair of animals or a colony.
IUCN Red List (March, 2011)
British Deer Society Fact Sheet. (March, 2008)
Macdonald, D.W. and Tattersall, F.T. (2001) Britain's mammals- the challenge for conservation. The Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Oxford University, Oxford. Available at:
The Invasive Alien Species project. Fact Sheet: Cervus nippon nippon. (March, 2008)