(Species – Cervus Nippon)
The Sika deer population in the New Forest is is in the region of 100.
As their Latin name suggests, this species originate from Japan. Whilst smaller than the Red deer they are from the same family (cervus) and are capable of inter-breeding. In the New Forest, Red deer are generally confined to the north and Sika deer to the south by the main Waterloo to Weymouth rail line which bisects the Forest. As a consequence the Sika herd in the Forest is regarded as one of the purest in the country. They have been in the New Forest since the early 1900s.
The males (stags) are 70 to 95cm at shoulder and the females (hinds) are 50 to 90cm. They have a similar spotted pelage to fallow deer, but darker. The coat is reddish brown with a dark dorsal stripe surrounded by white spots in the summer and dark grey to black with the spots faint or absent during the winter. They have a white heart shaped pattern on their rump and their tail shorter and with less distinct stripe than the Fallow. Their facial features are quite distinctive with a light patch between the eyes. Their lifespan is 15 -16 years.
Stags antlers are branched, similar to Red deer but generally with a maximum of eight points (four on each antler). Unlike Red deer, the angle between brow tine and the main beam is always less than 90 degrees. Antlers are cast in April.
Like the Red deer, they are active over 24 hours and prefer coniferous woodland and acid heath to populate. Sika tend to be solitary for most of the year and only form small groups in winter. The sexes tend not to mix outside of the rut. They generally feed at night and graze grasses and dwarf shrubs, especially heather. Coniferous tree shoots and bark are also eaten in small quantities.
For the unwary their calls can be quite startling. Stags give a high-pitched whistle during the rut and also emit a startling scream! Hinds with calves whine and calves reply with a bleat or squeak. When alarmed both sexes give a short, high-pitched bark.
The rut occurs from the end of September to November and is more prolonged than in other species. Stags defend a rutting territory, much like fallow deer, and they may also switch to harem-holding when a group of hinds has been assembled. Territories are marked by thrashing ground cover plants and fraying surrounding trees. A single calf is born during June after a gestation period of 8 months.
View the British Deer Society – Sika Deer Distribution Survey