sika deer

(Cervus nippon nippon)


This species is small to medium sized with a chestnut brown to reddish-olive coat with numerous white spots occurring in 7-8 rows on the upper sides. The mid-dorsal area is darker and forms a line from the head to the rump. A white rump patch ringed with a dark stripe is present. The chin, throat, and belly are cream to light gray, and both sexes have a dark neck mane in the winter. The males have antlers which are narrow and stand erect with 2-5 points per antler. The total length is 1,357/1,254 mm, the height of the shoulder is 759/692 and dressed body weight is (kg) 32.7/26. The rut begins in late September, with the peak of activity in October with calving occurring in May and June. One calf per female is generally produced each year. Sika deer are polygamous with up to 1 male to 12 females. When alarmed, sika display the large white rump patch and vocalize a series of chirp-like sounds. During the breeding season, males utter a sound similar to a human scream usually at night. In Maryland, the population is expanding at about 0.8 km per year, but appears stable in Virginia.


This is an introduced species from Asia and the only population in Virginia is on Assateague Island. Sika deer are most often seen near marshes at forest edges or in the marsh, however, they are also found in the extensive stands of loblolly pine on the island.


Known plant species utilized as food items include: Rhus radicans, Lanicera japonica, Smilax spp., Phytolacca americana, Myria spp., Ilex opaca, Pinus taeda, Populus grandidentata, Spartina patens, Glycine max, Zea mays, red maple and red gum.