T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Deer (Silka) Cervus nippon

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Cervidae
Subfamily: Cervinae
Genus: Cervus
Species: C. nippon
Binomial name: Cervus nippon
Common name: Silka, Spotted deer, Japanese deer

The Sika deer (Cervus nippon) is a species of deer native to much of East Asia. A successful liberation of a gift of six Silka deer to the New Zealand Government by the 11th Duke of Bedford in 1904 was released in January 1905 in the Poronui area of the Kaimanawa Ranges east of the North Island's Lake Taupo. They are now occupying a large area in the central North Island in the Kaimanawa and Kaweka Ranges, extending to southern Urewera, the Ruahine Range and the southern and western part of Tongariro National Park. There have also been illegal releases in Northland, Taranaki and the Wellington regions. Sika deer have now reached high densities. They browse on plant species that are unpalatable to other deer species e.g. mountain beech thus preventing their regeneration. Hunters are encouraged to harvest as many sika deer as possible in order to help the mountain beech canopy regenerate.

Silka males have a shoulder height >950 mm and weighing >85 kg with females smaller at >800 mm shoulder height and weighing >60 kg.
Their summer coat typically a sleek bright chestnut colour, grading to a creamy white on the belly, with white spots along the back and flanks. Spots fade as the winter coat grows, and the animal takes on a more uniform brown-grey colour. There is usually a distinctive black dorsal stripe, which extends from the ears to a patch at the base of the tail. This stripe is visible on both summer and winter coats but is more defined in summer. Sika deer have a relatively large white rump patch, which flares out when the animal is alarmed or disturbed. This patch has a dark margin near the base of the tail which fades to the colour of the body hair as it extends down the hind legs.
Only males carry antlers, which are cast in November-December and new ones hardened by March. Rutting occurs from March to early May. The gestation period is about 210 days. Only a single fawn is born between November-January. Hybridisation between sika and red deer may occur where their ranges overlap.

Bovine tuberculosis (TB) is a risk to the deer and cattle farming industry. TB is known to occur in wild red and fallow deer, although they are generally thought to be ‘spillover’ hosts i.e. TB is more likely to be found in deer inhabiting areas where the possums have TB and are at high densities, rather than through deer to deer transmission. TB has not been observed in sika deer but, as with many species of introduced mammals, they have the potential to carry it. (Thanks to Pest Detective of the National Pest Control Agencies (NPCA).

A male

Distribution map of the Silka deer (Red area)

Thanks to Wikipedia for text and information: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/