Sika deer fact file
The Sika Deer
Common name – Sika deer
Scientific name – cervus nippon
Size – adult Sikas stand at around 1 metre at the shoulder, stags being larger than the hinds. About 50kg is an average adult Sika weight, larger stags can weigh up to around 80kg.
Identification tips – hinds can be easily confused with roe deer because of their similar size and coat colour – a gingery-red in summer turning to a greyish-brown in the winter months. Stags tend to be a much darker brown, with a scruff of hair on the front of the neck. Sika’s often have pale spots either side of a dark stripe running along the spine. When the spots fade in winter the line of darker hair remains. A white rump is also a distinguishing feature.
Sika stags have branched antlers typically with four points each side.
Preferred habitat – open heathland and woodland. They like to be close to wetland areas, making the New Forest bogs an ideal place to find them.
Diet – grasses, heather and low shrub make up most of the diet. They will also feed on low-hanging tree branches and fresh shoots, as well as fallen nuts, berries and acorns. A small proportion of fungi is also consumed.
Breeding – The deer mate in late summer and give birth to a single calf the following May/June. Sika calves develop quickly and are fully independent of the mother within 7 to 10 months.
Other points – British Sika deer are of Japanese origins, and apparently the ones of the New Forest are descendants of a pair of Sika deer that escaped from the Beaulieu Estate in the early 1900s!
They are relatively few in number and stay in the southern half of the Forest, around the Brockenhurst area. If you ever see one there, let me know!