Native and introduced populations are seriously threatened by genetic pollution;
Reviewing the species' taxonomy concluded that four species are involved:
However, we consider all of these as subspecies of Cervus nippon, pending further information.
|Body Length||105-155 cm|
|Shoulder Height||65-110 cm|
|Tail Length||10-20 cm|
The colour of the coat ranges from grayish or chestnut brown to reddish olive, with the chin, belly, and throat being off-white. Some subspecies have a spattering of white spots on the upper sides, arranged in seven or eight lateral rows. These spots become less prominent in the winter as the coat grows shaggier, forming a dark mane on the neck, especially in males. On the rump, an erectile patch of light-coloured is used as a warning signal.
The antlers, grown only in males, are narrow and erect with 2-10 tines on each bar, measuring 28-81 cm in length.
This species prefers woodlands and forest with dense understory, but forages in open grassy areas. The main diet includes grass, some browse, and even fruit.
The species is crepuscular, but sometimes active by day and night, and forages singly or in small herds, with dominant males with harems.
Seasonal movements in Japan have been recorded, with winter ranges being up to 700 m below the larger summer ranges.
Mating takes place in September and October, with most births occurring in May and June.
Sika deer are highly vocal, with over 10 individual sounds known, ranging from soft whistles to loud screams.
|Gestation Period||210-223 days|
|Young per Birth||1, rarely 2|
|Weaning||At 8-12 months|
|Sexual Maturity||At 18-24 months|
|Life span||Over 10 years (15-20?)|
Non-territorial males utilize a home range of about 11,74 hectares. During the summer, certain males begin to establish territories, 2,7-7,7 hectares in size, averaging 4,76 hectares (in Nara Park, Honshu, only one fifth of mature males exhibited territorial behaviour). The boundaries of these ranges are marked with urine and thrashing of the ground, and fiercely defended from other males, often with serious fighting with antlers and hoofs. Within his territory, a male will round up a harem of up to 12 females with which to mate.
There are no global population estimates.
However, in summary, there is a large and growing population in Japan, and a stable population of 8,500-9,000 in Russia, but the species is in serious trouble in the rest of its range. There are probably fewer than 1,000 left in China, scattered in a few populations across a once vast range. It is extinct in South Korea, and probably extinct in North Korea and Viet Nam. It also became extinct on Taiwan, but has been re-introduced there.
Four subspecies of sika are present in mainland China of which three are threatened and one, Cervus nippon mandarinus, is probably extinct.
There are 400-500 Cervus nippon sichuanicus in the extreme north of Sichuan and in southern Gansu Province, as well in two other areas (Baxi and Beihe) of Sichuan.
Cervus nippon kopschi occurs as five isolated small populations:
Cervus nippon grassianus occurred in two separate and declining populations in western Shanxi but has not been reported for some years and may now be extinct. The total number in China was estimated to be no more than 1,000 animals, with populations fragments.
Sika are believed to be declining in all of their remaining range within China, although analyses of survival of Cervus nippon sichuanicus in Tiebu Nature Reserve during the late 1980's suggest a possible reversal of that trend.
Sika was reportedly common and widespread in north and central Korea but declined severely during the Japanese occupation of the country. After liberation it proved impossible to rebuild populations naturally from the surviving dispersed animals in Hamgyong North province, so the DPRK government initiated a captive breeding programme. The genetic purity of these animals is unclear as is their relationship to the sika held captive in DPRK nowadays. Sika is either very rare or extinct as a wild animal in DPR Korea. If it survives in DPR Korea, it will be in the extreme northeastern part of the country. It no longer survives in the wild in South Korea, including on Cheju Island.
The species survives near heavily populated areas of Honshu, and their populations had been severely fragmented and reduced due to human activities. However, the sika deer population has been conspicuously increasing throughout Japan in recent years as hunting has been brought under control.
On Hokkaido, for example, sika have increased greatly during the last decades of the 20th century and the early 21st century, and are now considered an agricultural and forest-plantation pest. Experimental hunting of males began in the 1950's, culling of females in the 1980's and hunting of females in the 1990's. Cervus nippon keramae was introduced to the Kerama Islands from the Japanese mainland during the 17th century, and is reported to have subsequently developed as an insular form.
There are 8,500-9,000 sika deer in Russia, and the population is stable.
Cervus nippon taiouanus is endemic to Taiwan. It was extirpated by 1969 and re-introduced to Kenting National Park in 1988.
The species may now be extinct in the wild in this country. In 1990, two to four animals were reported from the western Nghe Tinh Mountains, but it is highly doubtful that they survive there. Captive populations are present in Cuc Phuong National Park and Cat Ba National Park.
|North Korea||?||Probably extinct|
|Viet Nam||?||Probably extinct|
|Taiwan||?||Re-introduced after extinction|
The sika was distributed across east Asia, from central China in the west to Japan and Korea in the east, and from the extreme eastern tip of Russia in the north to southern China and Viet Nam.
Specifically, it was originally found in China (formerly from Manchuria south to Guangxi, and Sichuan to Anhui), North and South Korea (including Cheju Island) (but now probably extinct in both countries), Japan, Russia (a few places in Primorsky in the Far East), Taiwan (extinct in 1969, but subsequently re-introduced), and Viet Nam (probably now extinct).
In Japan, the species ranges widely from:
Wild populations are now very localized in China.
The species has been widely introduced.
In the Philippines it was anciently introduced to Solo Island, with questions remaining as to its continued existence there.
It was introduced in 17th century to Kerama Islands (Ryukyu Islands, Japan);
19th- 20th century
Cervus nippon was introduced to:
It is also widely farmed in Asia, particularly in China. Only the native, extant range is included in the IUCN distribution map.
This species is threatened by habitat loss and hunting, particularly in Viet Nam, China, and the Koreas.
The species is increasing in Japan (where it is hunted and culled to reduce crop and forest depredation), and stable in Russia and probably Taiwan.
All subspecies of sika have been hunted widely in China during the past 100 years and in Korea.
The subspecies in Viet Nam (Cervus nippon pseudaxi) and Taiwan (Cervus nippon taiouanus) were hunted for meat and antler velvet for use in traditional medicine. In Viet Nam, velvet from Cervus nippon is traded in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
In Japan, red deer farming used to be very popular, but now animals are being released into the wild raising the risk of hybridisation in the wild with Cervus nippon. Native and introduced populations are threatened by hybridization, with numerous populations are of uncertain provenance or have mixed ancestry.
In China, in addition to continued loss of habitat, loss of genetic diversity through anthropogenic population subdivision is also a conservation concern.
The small captive population of Cervus nippon pseudaxis in Cuc Phuong National Park is presently threatened by poaching.
In China, Cervus elaphus sichuanicus is threatened by poaching outside Tiebu Nature Reserve, and by encroachment on their habitats (including by deer farms).
In Japan, Cervus nippon keramae has been almost extirpated by hunting, and remains only on unoccupied islets where competition with feral goats and habitat change constitute serious threats. Water pollution is a serious problem for the deer.
The species is heavily depleted in the wild in China, and two of the Chinese subspecies may be extinct (mandarinus, grassianus), and others are threatened. However, large herds exist in captivity in China to meet the demand for velvet antlers used in traditional Asian medicine.
The species occurs in a number of protected areas, including:
The Viet Namese Sika Breeding and Conservation Program was initiated in 1991 with a shipment of ten animals to Europe on breeding loan.