|Male (stag) in Kadzidłowo, Poland|
|Female (hind) in the Wildpark Alte Fasanerie, Hanau, Germany|
The sika deer (Cervus nippon), also known as the spotted deer or the Japanese deer, is a species of deer native to much of East Asia and introduced to other parts of the world. Previously found from northern Vietnam in the south to the Russian Far East in the north,it is now uncommon except in Japan, where the species is overabundant.
Its name comes from shika (鹿), the Japanese word for "deer". In Japan, the species is known as the nihonjika (ニホンジカ (日本鹿), "Japan deer"). In Chinese, it is known as 梅花鹿; méihuālù; 'plum blossom deer'.
The sika deer is a member of the genus Cervus , a group of deer also known as the "true deer".[ citation needed ] Formerly, sika were grouped together in this genus with nine other species. Now, only the sika and red deer remain, the latter being divided into three separate species: European red deer, central Asian red deer, and American elk (though this remains controversial).
Recent DNA evidence indicates these deer are not as closely related as previously thought, resulting in the creation of new species and genera. The genera Rucervus , Rusa , and Przewalskium are where most of the former Cervus species now belong. The ancestor of all Cervus species probably originated in central Asia and resembled sika deer.All Cervus species can crossbreed and produce hybrids in areas where they coexist (for example, introduced sika hybridize with native red deer in the Scottish Highlands, where this is a serious threat to the gene pool of the red deer population).
Serious genetic pollution has occurred in many populations, especially in China, so the status of many subspecies remains unclear.The status of C. n. hortulorum is particularly uncertain and might in fact be of mixed origin, hence it is not listed here.
The sika deer is one of the few deer species that does not lose its spots upon reaching maturity. Spot patterns vary with region. The mainland subspecies have larger and more obvious spots, in contrast to the Taiwanese and Japanese subspecies, whose spots are nearly invisible. Many introduced populations are from Japan, so they also lack significant spots.
The color of the pelage ranges from mahogany to black, and white individuals are also known. During winter, the coat becomes darker and shaggier and the spots less prominent, and a mane forms on the back of the males' necks. 50 to 110 cm (20 to 45 in) tall at the shoulder and from 95 to 180 cm (35 to 70 in) in head-and-body length. The tail measures about 7.5–13 cm (3–5 in) long.They are medium-sized herbivores, though they show notable size variation across their several subspecies and considerable sexual dimorphism, with males invariably much larger than females. They can vary from
The largest subspecies is the Manchurian sika deer (C. n. mantchuricus), in which males commonly weigh about 68–109 kg (150–240 lb) and females weigh 45–50 kg (100–110 lb), with large stags scaling up to 160 kg (350 lb), although there had been records of Yezo sika deer bulls weighing up to 170 or 200 kg (370 or 440 lb). On the other end of the size spectrum, in the Japanese sika deer (C. n. nippon), males weigh 40–70 kg (90–150 lb) and females weigh 30–40 kg (70–90 lb). All sikas are compact and dainty-legged, with short, trim, wedge-shaped heads and a boisterous disposition. When alarmed, they often display a distinctive flared rump, much like the American elk.
Sika stags have stout, upright antlers with an extra buttress up from the brow tine and a very thick wall. A forward-facing intermediate tine breaks the line to the top, which is usually forked. Occasionally, sika antlers develop some palmation (flat areas). Females carry a pair of distinctive black bumps on the forehead. Antlers can range from 28 to 45 cm (11 to 17+1⁄2 in) to more than 80 cm (30 in), depending on the subspecies. Stags also have distinctive manes during their mating period (rut).
Sika deer can be active throughout the day, though in areas with heavy human disturbance, they tend to be nocturnal. Seasonal migration is known to occur in mountainous areas, such as Japan, with winter ranges being up to 700 m (2,300 ft) lower in elevation than summer ranges.
Lifestyles vary between individuals, with some occurring alone while others are found in single-sex groups. Large herds gather in autumn and winter. Males spend most years alone occasionally forming herds together. Females with fawns only form herds during birthing season.The sika deer is a highly vocal species, with over 10 individual sounds, ranging from soft whistles to loud screams.
Sika males are territorial and keep harems of females during their rut, which peaks from early September through November, two hectares (five acres). Territories are marked by a series of shallow pits or "scrapes", which is digging holes (up to 1.6m in wide and 0.3m in deep) with forefeet or antlers, into which the males urinate and from which emanates a strong, musky odor. Fights between rival males for territorial disputes, which occur by using hooves and antlers, are sometimes fierce and long and may even be fatal.but may last well into the winter. Territory size varies with habitat type and size of the buck; strong, prime bucks may hold up to
The gestation period lasts for 7 months. Hinds (does) give birth to a single fawn, weighing 4.5 to 7 kg (10 to 15 lb), which is nursed for up to ten months. The mother hides her fawn in thick undergrowth immediately after giving birth, and the fawn stays very quiet and still while it waits until the mother returns to nurse it. The fawn becomes independent 10 to 12 months after birth, and attains sexual maturity at 16 to 18 months in both sexes. The average lifespan is 15 to 18 years in captivity, although one case is recorded as living 25 years and 5 months.
The sika deer may interbreed with the red deer, the closest relative; hybrid descendants may have adaptive advantages over purebred relatives.
In Nara Prefecture, Japan, the deer are also known as "bowing deer", as they bow their heads before being fed special shika senbei (鹿せんべい, called "deer cookies"). However, deer bow heads to signal that they are about to headbutt. Therefore, when a human "bows" to a deer, the deer may take it as a challenge, and will assume the same stance before charging and attempting to headbutt the person. Deer headbutt both for play and to assert dominance, as do goats. Sika deer are found throughout the city of Nara and its many parks and temples like Tōdai-ji, as they are considered to be the messengers of the Shinto gods.
Sika deer are found in the temperate and subtropical forests of eastern Asia, preferring areas with dense understory, and where snowfall does not exceed 10–20 cm (4–8 in). They tend to forage in patchy clearings of forests. Introduced populations are found in areas with similar habitats to their native ranges, including Western and Central Europe, Eastern United States, and New Zealand.
Sika deer inhabit temperate and subtropical woodlands, often in areas suitable for farming and other human exploitation. Their range encompasses some of the most densely populated areas in the world, where forests were cleared hundreds of years ago. Their population status varies significantly in different countries. Although the species as a whole is thriving, it is endangered and extinct in many areas.
Japan has by far the largest native sika population in the world. Though the exact population is uncertain, it is likely to be in the hundred thousand range and is still increasing,[ citation needed ] mainly due to recent conservation efforts and the extinction of its main predator, the Japanese wolf (Canis lupus hodophilax), over a century ago. Without its main predator, the population of sika exploded and it is now overpopulated in many areas, posing a threat to both forests and farmlands. Efforts are now being made to control its population instead of conserving it. None of its subspecies is endangered except the Kerama deer (C. n. keramae) on the tiny Kerama Islands. In 2015, Japanese Ministry of the Environment estimated the population at 3,080,000 in Japan, including Hokkaido.
China used to have the largest population of sika, but thousands of years of hunting and habitat loss have reduced the population to less than 1,000.Of the five subspecies in China, the North China sika deer (C. n. mandarinus) is believed to be extinct in the wild since the 1930s; the Shanxi sika deer (C. n. grassianus) has not been seen in the wild since the 1980s and is also believed to be extinct in the wild. The status of Manchurian sika deer in China is unclear, though it is also believed to be extinct, and the sightings there are actually feral populations.
The South China sika deer (C. n. kopschi) and Sichuan sika deer (C. n. sichuanicus) are the only subspecies known to remain in the wild. The former exists in fragmented populations of around 300 in southeast China, while the latter is found in a single population of over 400. The feral population is likely to be much higher than the wild, though most of them are descended from domesticated sikas of mixed subspecies. All of the subspecies are present in captivity, but a lack of suitable habitats and government efforts prevent their reintroduction.
The Formosan sika deer (C. n. taioanus) has been extinct in the wild for almost two decades before individuals from zoos were introduced to Kenting National Park; the population now numbers 200. Reintroduction programs are also under way in Vietnam, where the Vietnamese sika deer (C. n. pseudaxis) is extinct or nearly so.
Russia has a relatively large and stable population of 8,500–9,000 individuals of the Manchurian subspecies, [ citation needed ]but this is limited to a small area in Primorsky Krai. Small populations might exist in North Korea, but the political situation makes investigation impossible. The species is extinct in South Korea, with no plans for reintroduction.
Sika deer have been introduced into a number of other countries, including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Russia, Romania, New Zealand, Australia, the Philippines (Jolo Island), Poland, Sweden, Finland, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States (Delaware, Kansas,[ citation needed ] Maryland, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Virginia, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Maine, Texas, Wyoming, Washington).[ citation needed ] In many cases, they were originally introduced as ornamental animals in parklands, but have established themselves in the wild. On Spieden Island in the San Juan Islands of Washington, they were introduced as a game animal.[ citation needed ]
In the UK and Ireland, several distinct feral populations now exist.[ citation needed ] Some of these are in isolated areas, for example on the island of Lundy, but others are contiguous with populations of the native red deer. Since the two species sometimes hybridize, a serious conservation concern exists. In research which rated the negative impact of introduced mammals in Europe, the sika deer was found to be among the most damaging to the environment and economy, along with the brown rat and muskrat.
In the 1900s, King Edward VII presented a pair of sika deer to John, the second Baron Montagu of Beaulieu. This pair escaped into Sowley Wood and were the basis of the sika to be found in the New Forest today.[ citation needed ] They were so prolific, culling had to be introduced in the 1930s to control their numbers.
Across its original range and in many areas to which it has been introduced, the sika is regarded as a particularly prized and elusive sportsman's quarry. In Britain, Ireland, and mainland Europe, sika display very different survival strategies and escape tactics from the indigenous deer. They have a marked tendency to use concealment in circumstances when red deer, for example, would flee, and have been seen to squat and lie belly-flat when danger threatens.
In the British Isles, sika are widely regarded as a serious threat to new and established woodlands, and public and private forestry bodies adopt policies of rigorous year-round culling.
The main predators of sika deer include tigers, wolves,leopards, and brown bears. Lynx and golden eagles target fawns.
Velvet antler (dried immature antlers) is a popular ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine, and sika in China were domesticated long ago for the antler trade, along with several other species. In Taiwan, both Formosan sika deer and Formosan sambar deer (Cervus unicolor swinhoei) have been farmed for velvet antlers. Japan is the only country in eastern Asia where sika deer were not farmed for velvet antlers.
Other deer raised for the antler trade were Thorold's deer (Cervus albirostris), central Asian red deer (Cervus canadensis affinis), and American elk (Cervus canadensis canadensis).
Deer or true deer are hoofed ruminant mammals forming the family Cervidae. The two main groups of deer are the Cervinae, including the muntjac, the elk (wapiti), the red deer, and the fallow deer; and the Capreolinae, including the reindeer (caribou), white-tailed deer, the roe deer, and the moose. Male deer of all species as well as female reindeer, grow and shed new antlers each year. In this they differ from permanently horned antelope, which are part of a different family (Bovidae) within the same order of even-toed ungulates (Artiodactyla).
The European fallow deer also known as the common fallow deer or simply just fallow deer is a species of ruminant mammal belonging to the family Cervidae. It is native to Turkey and possibly the Italian Peninsula, Balkan Peninsula, and the island of Rhodes in Europe, but has also been introduced to other parts of Europe and the rest of the world.
Eld's deer, also known as the thamin or brow-antlered deer, is an endangered species of deer endemic to South Asia.
The red deer is one of the largest deer species. A male red deer is called a stag or hart, and a female is called a hind. The red deer inhabits most of Europe, the Caucasus Mountains region, Anatolia, Iran, and parts of western Asia. It also inhabits the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and Tunisia, being the only species of deer to inhabit Africa. Red deer have been introduced to other areas, including Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, Peru, Uruguay, Chile and Argentina. In many parts of the world, the meat (venison) from red deer is used as a food source.
The Sitka deer or Sitka black-tailed deer, is a subspecies of mule deer, similar to the Columbian black-tailed subspecies. Their name originates from Sitka, Alaska, and it is not to be confused with the similarly named sika deer. Weighing in on average between 48 and 90 kg, Sitka deer are characteristically smaller than other subspecies of mule deer. Reddish-brown in the summer, their coats darken to a gray-brown in mid- to late August. They are also good swimmers, and can occasionally be seen crossing deep channels between islands. Their average lifespan is about 10 years, but a few are known to have attained an age of 15.
The sambar is a large deer native to the Indian subcontinent, South China, and Southeast Asia that is listed as a vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List since 2008. Populations have declined substantially due to severe hunting, local insurgency, and industrial exploitation of habitat.
The chital, also known as spotted deer, chital deer, and axis deer, is a deer species native to the Indian subcontinent. It was first described by German naturalist Johann Christian Polycarp Erxleben in 1777. A moderate-sized deer, male chital reach nearly 90 cm (35 in) and females 70 cm (28 in) at the shoulder. While males weigh 30–75 kg (66–165 lb), the lighter females weigh 25–45 kg (55–99 lb). It is sexually dimorphic; males are larger than females, and antlers are present only on males. The upper parts are golden to rufous, completely covered in white spots. The abdomen, rump, throat, insides of legs, ears, and tail are all white. The antlers, three-pronged, are nearly 1 m long.
Thorold's deer is a threatened species of deer found in grassland, shrubland, and forest at high altitudes in the eastern Tibetan Plateau. It is also known as the white-lipped deer for the white patches around its muzzle.
The barasingha, also called swamp deer, is a deer species distributed in the Indian subcontinent. Populations in northern and central India are fragmented, and two isolated populations occur in southwestern Nepal. It has been extirpated in Pakistan and Bangladesh, and its presence is uncertain in Bhutan.
Cervus is a genus of deer that primarily are native to Eurasia, although one species occurs in northern Africa and another in North America. In addition to the species presently placed in this genus, it has included a whole range of other species now commonly placed in other genera. Additionally, the species-level taxonomy is in a state of flux.
The Caspian red deer, is one of the easternmost subspecies of red deer that is native to areas between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea such as Crimea, Asia Minor, the Caucasus Mountains region bordering Europe and Asia, and along the Caspian Sea region in Iran. The Caspian red deer is sometimes referred to as maral, noble deer, or eastern red deer.
The elk, also known as the wapiti, is one of the largest species within the deer family, Cervidae, and one of the largest terrestrial mammals in its native range of North America, as well as Central and East Asia. It is often confused with the larger Alces alces, which is called moose in North America, but called elk in British English, and related names in other European languages. The name "wapiti" is used in Europe for Cervus canadensis. It originates from the Shawnee and Cree word waapiti, meaning 'white rump'.
The Shanxi sika deer is a possibly extinct subspecies of the sika deer. It is also one of its largest, being 105–110 cm tall at the shoulders and weighing 100 kg. The color is tawny or grayish dark, and is brown on the back of the leg. The spots are nearly invisible. It is previously found in two populations in the upland forests of Lüliang Mountains in western Shanxi, while its range might be much larger in historical times, encompassing the entire loess plateau. There has been no sightings of the subspecies for decades and it is now believed to be extinct, though no actual investigations have been done. Although pure bred individuals remain in farms as a breed, there is not enough suitable habitat nor government effort for reintroduction to take place.
The North China sika deer or Mandarin sika deer is one of the many subspecies of sika deer. It is a large subspecies with some of the most prominent spots of all subspecies, which is permanent throughout the year. It previously inhabited lowland forests of North China Plain and Northeast China Plain. Because of intensive habitat alterations the subspecies was endangered centuries ago, surviving only in remote areas of northeastern China and the Qing Imperial Hunting Grounds. Though no surveys have been conducted on the subspecies' status, there have been no sightings for many decades and it is reasonable to presume that it is extinct in the wild. Although it is fairly common in zoos and purebred North China sika deer is a valuable breed in the Asian antler farming industry, the lack of suitable habitats and government efforts makes reintroduction impossible.
The Formosan sika deer is a subspecies of sika deer endemic to the island of Taiwan. Formosan sika, like most of the terrestrial fauna and flora of Taiwan, arrived on the island during Pleistocene glacial periods when lower sea levels connected Taiwan to the Asian mainland.
The Vietnamese sika deer also known as the indochinese sika deer is one of the many subspecies of the sika deer. It is one of the smaller subspecies, due to the tropical environment they live in. They were previously found in northern Vietnam and possibly southwestern China, but may now be extinct in the wild. There are plans for reintroducing this subspecies in the future.
The Manchurian sika deer or Dybowski's sika deer is a subspecies of deer, the largest of the 14 subspecies of sika deer. It was first described by Robert Swinhoe in 1864.
The Yezo sika deer is one of the many subspecies of the sika deer. The sika that inhabit the island of Hokkaido are indigenous, although it is not known whether they originated there or migrated from the main island of Japan. It is thought that they may have traveled across the strait between the islands. Genetic study has shown that the separation of the sika population occurred less than half a million years ago. It is possible that northern sika deer may be more closely related to yezo sika deer than to other sika deer. The indigenous Ainu people of Hokkaido have hunted them for centuries and relied on them as a major food source.
O'Brien, D.J., Rooney, S.M. and Hayden, T.J. 2009. A differential vulnerability to hunting between the sexes in Sika-type calves. I. Nat. J.30: 7- 9.
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