Sika Deer

Sika Quick Facts


Common Name


Scientific Name

Cervus nippon

Primarily found in

China and Japan islands in Asia


Adaptable, but prefer forbs

Life Span

15 yrs in the wild; 25 yrs in captivity

(Cervus nippon) China and Japanese islands in Asia. Includes 3 races – Formosan, Manchurian, and Dybowski’s deer.


Manchurian Sika



Free-ranging sika populations in Maryland and Virginia are thought to be from a single source (Yakushima island, Japan).


Sika exist in a number of color variations, from rust colored (similar to axis deer to brown to almost black.  Lighter color patterns often show rows of pale, white spots, while darker animals may have a group of faint, discolored spots.  Underside and belly often lightly colored to gray (often in animals with darker coloration).  Males and females grow neck ruff in winter months.  Fawns are born mahogany with white spots that fade as they mature.  Sika have a distinctive rump patch with a bright white underside that fluffs when alarmed.  Have barrel-shaped torsos with dainty legs.  Short snouts give a wedge-like appearance to face and head.  Males grow antlers that extend upward and branch, typically sporting 3 points per side (as many as 6 per side in larger Manchurian & Dybowski’s races). Smaller Forsomon race have antlers that usually range from 11 to 19 inches (Dybowski – 24 to 36 inches).  Male weights average 90 to 140 lbs. while females usually average around 70 lbs (Dybowski deer considerably more – males may weigh 250+ lbs).


Males shed velvet in late August and September and typically drop antlers from February through March.  Wade in ponds when hot.  Use mud wallows and make deep scrapes during rutting periods.  Considered a “noisy” deer.  Sika bucks bugle loudly during pre-rut and rut, much like that of an elk except at a higher pitch.  Bugles consist of a series of 3 whistles, heard primarily during early morning and late afternoons.  Females, or “hinds”, often communicate with their young using soft bleats and whistles.  When alarmed, sika sound off with a high pitched bark and bounce off, similar to a pronghorn antelope trot.  This bouncing movement, where all four legs are used to push off simultaneously, is know as stotting.  Males prefer to isolate or stay in very small groups.  Females and young tend to travel in small groups if habitat is dense and larger groups in more open country.

Japanese Sika

Food Habits

Have a diet that is very adaptable between forage types depending availability.  Prefer browsing on forbs when available, but switch back and forth from grasses to browse as season and habitat dictate.  Drink water daily.


Rut occurs in September and October.  Males are often intolerant of rivals.  Dominant males gather harems of females while subordinate males may act in territory defense.  Sika prefer ridges or brushy gullies for breeding activities.  Females go into heat for only 1 to 2 days.  They most often have 1 young after a gestation of 7.5 months and fawns are born from May to August.  Twin births can occur, but are rare.  Males and females mature sexually at 16 to 18 months, but some females as early as 6 months.

Life Span

Usually up to 15 years and exceptionally up to 18.  In captivity, 25 years possible.

Keeping Sika

Compatible with most species, but will fight aggressively with red deer and American elk during rutting periods.  All sika races cross readily with each other.  Can hybridize with red deer.  Fence with a height of 7.5 feet is usually sufficient.

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