Sika (Sp), Sikahirsch (G), Sika (F). "Sika" is from the Japanese shika for this animal. Sometimes called Japanese deer.
DESCRIPTION A medium-sized deer, varying considerably in size, coloration and markings depending on the subspecies. As in wapiti and red deer, but unlike other deer, sika develop upper canine teeth. Four subspecies are known to have been introduced in Texas on private ranches.
Smallest is the Japanese sika (Cervus nippon nippon), which is native to the main islands of Japan. It stands about 31 inches (79 cm) at the shoulder and weighs about 105 pounds (48 kg). The summer coat is reddish-brown with many white spots, changing to dark brown without spots in winter. The sharply defined white rump patch is broken by a narrow, dark tail stripe. (Another small sika deer found in Texas is black year-round without white spots or rump patch. It has always been called Japanese sika and is thought to be a color phase.) Mature bucks have four points on each antler and a beam length of 16-18 inches (41-46 cm).
Considerably larger is the Formosan sika (C. n. taiouanus) of Taiwan, with a shoulder height of 38 inches (97 cm) and weight of about 175 pounds (79 kg). It is a very beautiful animal, with a summer coat of bright chestnut with prominent white spots, becoming a little more drab in winter with the spots less prominent. The white rump patch has a noticeable black border and the black tail stripe is more pronounced than in the Japanese sika. Antlers have four points on a side and 18-22 inch (46-56 cm) beams. Listed as endangered by the USF&WS (1979) and the IUCN in its native land, it may actually be extinct in the wild, surviving only in zoos and private herds in other parts of the world.
Larger still is the Manchurian sika (C. n. mantchuricus), which is native to southern Manchuria and Korea. It stands 38-40 inches (97-102 cm) at the shoulder and weighs as much as 240 pounds (109 kg). The summer coat is a rich chestnut-red with rather faint spots, and a white rump patch bordered with black. This changes in winter to deep brown on the body and bluish-black on the neck, with the spots barely discernable. Trophy antlers will measure 24-26 inches (61-66 cm), with four points (sometimes five) to the side.
Largest race in Texas (and in the world) is the Dybowski or Ussuri sika (C. n. hortulorum) from the Ussuri region of southeastern Siberia and eastern Manchuria, and northeastern Korea. (It should be noted that most biologists now consider Manchurian and Dybowski sika to be the same animal.) Shoulder height is as much as 43 inches (109 cm) and weight may be 250 pounds (113 kg) or more. The summer coat is reddish-fawn, with small white spots that extend onto the neck and often fuse into rows on the flanks. The coat turns dark yellowish-brown in winter, with spots barely visible or not at all. There is a vague dorsal stripe, the white rump patch is bordered with black, and the upper surface of the tail is reddish with a black stripe. Antlers measuring 28-36 inches (71-91 cm) have been recorded in Siberia and Manchuria, usually with four points to the side, but sometimes with five or even six.
All races of sika will interbreed and-because few ranchers in the United States have kept the subspecies separate-the result is a multitude of hybrid forms. While sika deer on some ranches may appear to be purebreds of this or that subspecies, there is no way to be certain. For this reason, all North American specimens are combined here in one list.
Typical sika deer antlers have four points to a side-the main beam plus three tines. A strong brow tine grows close to the burr, a trez tine (no bez tine in sika deer) grows from the top or front of the main beam, and an inner top tine grows on the inside of the beam to form a forward-facing terminal fork. Some sika stags will have additional tines, which usually are basal snags or extra top tines, and these tines are always non-typical.
DISTRIBUTION Free-ranging in parts of Maryland and Texas and perhaps elsewhere. Also on private ranches, mainly in Texas but also in a number of other states.
REMARKS Native to eastern Asia, from the Ussuri region of Siberia and Manchuria southward to Vietnam on the mainland, and on the islands of Japan and Taiwan. Many subspecies have been listed by various authorities, with no general agreement. What are believed to have been Japanese sika were introduced on the Bear Creek Ranch, Kerr County, Texas, during the late 1930s and early 1940s. Subsequent introductions on other Texas properties included Formosan, Manchurian and Dybowski sika. By 1979, it was estimated there were more than 6,200 sika deer in 49 Texas counties, including 1,200 free-ranging animals. Between about 1916 and 1930, several releases of sika deer were made in Maryland, where they are slowly expanding their range. Introductions have also been made in Nebraska and Michigan. Sika are aggressive deer that have been able to compete successfully with the native white-tailed deer in North America, and with red deer in the British Isles and New Zealand, usually to the detriment of the native species.
HYBRIDIZATION The sika deer is either known or believed to crossbreed, or to be the result of hybridization, when in a game ranch environment. Sika will also interbreed with red deer; following our established policy such hybrids are recorded as red deer, as it is the larger animal with the larger antlers.