Sika deer description and history.
Sika deer are a species that historically inhabited Japan, China, Taiwan and
Formosa. Their many sub-species were introduced into England, Scotland, Denmark,
Ireland, France, Australia, New Zealand and the United States. Maryland’s sub
species, the smallest, come originally came from Yakushima Island in Japan.
Clement Henry introduced Maryland’s sub species onto James Island in Dorchester
County in 1916. A Dr. Charles Laws, of Berlin, MD, after purchasing some of the
animals from a man in Cambridge, released them on Assateague Island off of the
Worcester County mainland in the early 1920s.
Sikas are considerably smaller than whitetails with adult stags (males) averaging 90
lbs. and hinds (females) 70 lbs. They stand about 2 1/2 feet high at the rump and
sport a chestnut brown to charcoal black coat in hunting season and a reddish
brown pelage in the summer. Water drentched coats ofetn make the stags appear
to be black. Both males and females sometimes exhibit white spots on their flanks
or often paralleling the spine. Their tails are small; surrounded with a white rump
patch that is flared when they are frightened. Males also have dark, shaggy manes
on their necks. Young sikas are called calves.
Sika deer, like other deer, have an acute sense of smell, good eyesight and excellent
hearing. They are good swimmers as well. Movement occurs mostly during the early
morning or late evening hours except during the rut when the males move all day.
Stags start to establish territories during the late summer to prepare for the mating
season which occurs September through October with the peak in middle October.
During the mating season, the males will gather up females in his territory like bull
elk. Females usually give birth to a single calf but are known to have twins. These
deer are known to live to around 20 years with longevity being credited in a large
part to living in the wetland habitats.
Sika deer are very vocal animals and are well known for their unique sounds that
range from the bugle which is very high pitched, three-part whistle to subtle whines,
mews and chirps. The alarm call sounds like a high-pitched bark. The meat of the
Sika is very flavorful with most hunters preferring sika to whitetail.
Sikas favor the marshes, swamps, wetlands and any associated woodlands and
agricultural fields. Sikas are browsers but enjoy eating agricultural plants like
soybeans, milo (sorghum) and corn. They are easily enticed to bait stations with a
real preference to corn. The highest population density occurs in Southern
Dorchester County with animals also found in Wicomico, Somerset and Worcester