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Sika Deer
By Steve Mahurin
     

The Sika Deer (Cervus Nippon) is native to eastern Asia with nearly thirteen subspecies occurring there. There are at least three of those subspecies that have been transplanted to the United States with a possible fourth which hasn't been proven as yet. All of these subspecies are present in Texas. The three subspecies known to exist both on game ranches and free ranging animals are the Japanese, the Formosan, and the Manchurian.

The Japanese Sika is the smallest of the Sika deer. An adult would be about 31 inches high at the shoulder and weigh around 110 pounds. It's coloration reddish brown in spring and summer with lots of white spots. In fall and winter the coloration is darker and the spots disappear. They also have a white rump patch throughout their life. A large mature buck will have antlers with 8 points and 18-22 inches in length.

The Formosan Sika is the second largest of the Sika. The adult males stand about 36 inches at the shoulder and can weigh up to 175 pounds. In the summer the coat is a chestnut with prominent white spots. The winter colors are dark brown and the spots are less noticeable. Mature bucks will have 8 points and lengths a little longer than the Japanese variety. The white rump patch is more obvious on this animal.

The Manchurian or Dybowski Sika is the largest of the subspecies in Texas. An adult male will measure up to 43 inches at the shoulder and weigh up to 275 pounds. These deer are reddish brown with the white spots in the summer and dark brown in the winter. The spots are in the winter can barely be seen. This deer also has the white rump patch. Antlers can be in the 24 to nearly 30 inches in length, with the usual 8 points but occasionally having 10 points.

The possible fourth subspecies mentioned earlier is the Kerama Sika. This deer is an all black animal that is usually called a Japanese Sika. But the previously mentioned Japanese variety is described with white spots in summer and a white rump patch. It is possible that this is a melanistic phase that has bred true. But literature describes this Kerama as an animal similar in size to the Japanese and all black animals are common. This subspecies is described as lacking white spots and having no white rump patch. Thus it is possible that this fourth subspecies, the Kerama is present in Texas as well as the other areas of the United States in which Sika are found.

All subspecies of Sika are capable of crossbreeding with the others making it very difficult to find herds of pure animals. Sikas during the rut make a sound that can range from a whistle to a high-pitched scream. They make a high-pitched whistle when alarmed; Sika deer have a bouncing gait a lot like a Mule Deer. In fact Sika are smaller cousins of the Elk.They have been found to be able to crossbreed with elk and have the characteristics of the Sika, but are almost two-thirds the size of an elk. The venison is tasty if taken prior to the rut but pretty gamey otherwise.

Written by Steve Mahurin on July 22, 2000.

 
Sika Deer
     

Steve Mahurin
25 North Heights
La Marque, Texas 77568
409-935-9673

Email: samahurin@comcast.net

Copyright 2001 - 2011


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