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Sika Deer

Cervus nippon

Sika deer are reddish-brown with white spots on the back. (Philip Hay/Flickr)
Sika deer are reddish-brown with white spots on the back. (Philip Hay/Flickr)

The sika deer is a small, brown elk that lives in quiet marshes and forested wetlands on the lower Eastern Shore of Maryland.


  • Varies in color from reddish-brown in the summer to dark brown or black in the winter
  • White spots on the back
  • White rump
  • Males have narrow antlers and a dark, shaggy mane on the neck
  • Grows to about 2.5 feet tall at the rump
  • Males usually weigh about 90 pounds, while females usually weigh about 70 pounds


  • Lives in isolated marshes, wetlands and swamps and thick loblolly pine forests
  • Mostly nocturnal
  • Sexes live separately except during breeding season: females usually live in small groups with their young, while males live alone during fall and winter and in groups of other males during spring and summer


  • Found throughout the lower Eastern Shore of Maryland, mostly in southern Dorchester County but also in Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester counties
  • Females have a home range of about 150 acres, while males have a home range of nearly 500 acres
  • Native to Japan, Taiwan and eastern Asia


  • Feeds at night on plants, grasses, marsh vegetation and crops such as corn and soybeans


  • No natural predators in the Chesapeake Bay watershed
  • Humans hunt sika deer for their meat


  • Communicate with one another using at least 10 different sounds
  • Emits a distinctive short, high-pitched “bark” when alarmed
  • Females use soft bleats and whistles to communicate with their young and other females
  • During breeding, males emit a long, multi-pitched wail

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Breeds in autumn, beginning in late September
  • After about seven months (usually in May), the female gives birth to a single calf
  • Most sika deer breed in their second year, but about one-quarter breed in their first year

Other Facts:

  • Also called sika elk or Asian elk
  • Males are called “stags” and females are called “hinds” or “cows”
  • Although they are called deer, sika deer are actually a member of the elk family
  • First introduced in the Chesapeake Bay watershed on James Island in Dorchester County, Maryland, in 1916
  • Although it is an exotic species, sika deer are not considered invasive because they do not directly compete with native wildlife for food and habitat

Sources and Additional Information:


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