Dyllan Deer Control Group

 

 

 

 

Sika Deer

 

Aim

The aim of this guide is to provide information on aspects of the ecology and behaviour of sika deer to aid in the
management of this species.
A naturalised non-native species, imported from the Far East. Japanese sika (C. n. nippon) and Manchurian sika (C. n. mantchuricus) are the sub-species present in UK.


Social structure

The sexes are generally segregated, coming together only during the rut. Females tend to occupy traditional home ranges, which in season also become the rutting ground for males. Individuals tend to stay within a 5 km radius of their home range, unless disturbed. Stags tend to move out into outlying areas and can travel substantial distances.
Where sika colonise an area, they tend to dominate other deer species.

Group size varies. Female groups are led by a dominant hind. Sika may hybridise with red deer to produce fertile offspring, particularly where both species meet at the edge of their ranges. Generally hybrids tend to be the result of sika males crossing with red hinds. Although first generation hybrids may be recognisable as having the appearance of both
parents, subsequent crosses are difficult to assess
which generally makes selective culling difficult.

stag in wintercoat; dark-greyto black, spotsfaint or absent.
Antlers in a mature stagare similar to red deer, but typically withsix to eightpoints.

note distinct white metatarsal gland on hindleg although hardly visible head on, the erectile hairs of the caudal patch fan out to display a stateof alarm to any other deer.

 

Hinds


BreedingSingle calf: Born late May and early June althoughcalves born earlier are not uncommon. Twins are rare.
Productivity: Sika can produce and maintain highreproductive rates, even at high population densities.
Most adult females will be pregnant. Some yearlingsand occasionally well developed calves may also be
pregnant.
Weaning of calves: At 4 months. Calves may
continue to suckle beyond this period but are notdependent on milk.
Behaviour: At the onset of calving, females seek
cover in heavy scrub or forest. Hinds will tend toremain in this cover until the calf is capable ofrunning at foot.
Vocalisation: Hinds have a distinctive alarm peep.
Hinds with calves whine and calves reply with a peep.
Shoulder height: 50-90 cm
Stags
Antler development
Mar/Apr: Antlers cast.
Aug: Most stags are in hard antler, i.e. antlers are
clean of velvet.
Mating
Mid Sep - end Oct: Rutting behaviour peaks.
Stags form a hierarchy before and during the rut, withmost fighting occurring between subordinate males.
Stags defend a rutting territory but may also switchto harem-holding when a group of hinds has beenassembled or hind density is high.
Nov – Dec: Some males may continue to vocaliseand breed.
Vocalisation: Stags have a varied range ofvocalisations during rut (examples include a ‘triple-
whistle’). Hybrid stags may incorporate a mixture ofsika and red-like vocalisations. The alarm call of a
stag may be a high-pitched bark.
Shoulder height: 70-95 cm
©DCS 2008

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* See BPG Woodland Damage: Recognition of Cause
Body condition
changes
Winter: Sika are better able than other
deer species to maintain body condition
throughout the winter, especially in habitats
that are in poor condition or less fertile.
This may help to explain why sika hinds
tend to be more productive than other
species of deer in woodland habitats.
Spring: Deer start to gain condition having
benefited from a spring flush of vegetation.
Summer: The body condition of males peaks in
August. This is often a difficult time to stalk stags as
they become less visible, tending to seek secure,
solitary areas in dense cover in which to feed.
Autumn: Females peak in body condition during
October. Active males may lose condition during the
rut.
Patterns of activity
Habitat and range
Sika tend to thrive in most habitat types but,
particularly well-established deciduous and mixed
woodland, offering dense concealing cover. Pine and
Sitka Spruce forests, larch with boggy ground and
heather habitats all suit them.
While there is no evidence that sika cause more
damage to trees than other species through browsing
and bark stripping, damage by ‘bole scoring’ is
specific to sika.*
Feeding
Sika have a diverse diet, feeding mainly on grasses
and dwarf shrubs such as heather, but also items such
as mushrooms, lichens, coniferous tree shoots and
tree bark. Sika will also make use of food sources
such as those offered by neighbouring farms and
moorland.
Daily movements
Generally sika are crepuscular in their movement
patterns, visiting feeding areas at dawn and dusk.
Sika commonly graze nocturnally under the cover
of darkness. The opportunity for encountering sika
significantly increases at first and last light when they
are moving to and from feeding areas.
Seasonal movements
Seasonally, sika move less than red, and do not
congregate on wintering grounds in the same way as
red.
Response to weather
Compared to other species, sika are less affected by
inclement weather.
Response to humans
Sika are generally unpredictable and inquisitive in
their behaviour towards humans, although they tend
to react quickly on the first suspicion of danger by
fleeing.
Damage
Bark stripping damage* often increases as the
sap rises in trees.
Fraying damage* associated with stags cleaning
velvet occurs during August and September.
Bole scoring* (gouging with the antlers) of
plantation trees can occur throughout the period
stags are in hard antler.
‡Ensure you are familiar with the annual cycle of bothmales and females to ensure that management activitiesdo not compromise animal welfare. For example be
particularly aware of times of the year when: •Females
may have calves at foot •Offspring may be dependent•Non-target animals may be in poor condition and beaffected by disturbance.
©DCS 2008
up to about five months of agesika calves can be identified bytheir size. However, they grow so
fast that thereafter they are lesseasily recognised
Calves
Social dependencyFemale calves frequently remain with their mother
as yearlings, inheriting her social status and learningher home range during this period. Social groups of ahind, her calf, and yearling are common.
* See BPG Woodland Damage: Recognition of Cause
Body condition
changes
Winter: Sika are better able than other
deer species to maintain body condition
throughout the winter, especially in habitats
that are in poor condition or less fertile.
This may help to explain why sika hinds
tend to be more productive than other
species of deer in woodland habitats.
Spring: Deer start to gain condition having
benefited from a spring flush of vegetation.
Summer: The body condition of males peaks in
August. This is often a difficult time to stalk stags as
they become less visible, tending to seek secure,
solitary areas in dense cover in which to feed.
Autumn: Females peak in body condition during
October. Active males may lose condition during the
rut.
Patterns of activity
Habitat and range
Sika tend to thrive in most habitat types but,
particularly well-established deciduous and mixed
woodland, offering dense concealing cover. Pine and
Sitka Spruce forests, larch with boggy ground and
heather habitats all suit them.
While there is no evidence that sika cause more
damage to trees than other species through browsing
and bark stripping, damage by ‘bole scoring’ is
specific to sika.*
Feeding
Sika have a diverse diet, feeding mainly on grasses
and dwarf shrubs such as heather, but also items such
as mushrooms, lichens, coniferous tree shoots and
tree bark. Sika will also make use of food sources
such as those offered by neighbouring farms and
moorland.
Daily movements
Generally sika are crepuscular in their movement
patterns, visiting feeding areas at dawn and dusk.
Sika commonly graze nocturnally under the cover
of darkness. The opportunity for encountering sika
significantly increases at first and last light when they
are moving to and from feeding areas.
Seasonal movements
Seasonally, sika move less than red, and do not
congregate on wintering grounds in the same way as
red.
Response to weather
Compared to other species, sika are less affected by
inclement weather.
Response to humans
Sika are generally unpredictable and inquisitive in
their behaviour towards humans, although they tend
to react quickly on the first suspicion of danger by
fleeing.
Damage
Bark stripping damage* often increases as the
sap rises in trees.
Fraying damage* associated with stags cleaning
velvet occurs during August and September.
Bole scoring* (gouging with the antlers) of
plantation trees can occur throughout the period
stags are in hard antler.
‡Ensure you are familiar with the annual cycle of bothmales and females to ensure that management activitiesdo not compromise animal welfare. For example be
particularly aware of times of the year when: •Females
may have calves at foot •Offspring may be dependent•Non-target animals may be in poor condition and beaffected by disturbance.
©DCS 2008
up to about five months of agesika calves can be identified bytheir size. However, they grow so
fast that thereafter they are lesseasily recognised
Calves
Social dependencyFemale calves frequently remain with their mother
as yearlings, inheriting her social status and learningher home range during this period. Social groups of ahind, her calf, and yearling are common.
ecology_sika.indd 2


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