||The Mammals of Texas -
Artiodactyla : Family Cervidae
: Cervus nippon Temminck
A small to medium sized deer
that, due to extensive hybridization in Texas, is highly
variable in size and coloration. In general, sika are all
"compact" in form; appear
"dainty-legged"; and have a short, trim,
wedge-shaped head. Males carry antlers that average 28-48
cm in length, although exceptional racks may be up to 74
cm in length. Sika antlers have 3-4 points branching from
a main beam; there is no palmate growth as in the fallow
deer. Females have a pair of black bumps on the forehead,
their placement corresponding to that of the maless
Coloration is drab brown to a deep,
mahogany brown mottled with numerous white spots. The
degree of spotting is highly variable, however, and in
some individuals spotting may be absent. The head, as
well as the hair tuft over each metatarsal gland, tends
to be lighter than the body. A distinctive, white rump
patch is evident, especially when the animal is alerted.
Texas sika range in size from 76-89 cm
shoulder height and 45-80 kg for the smaller Japanese and
Formosan varieties to 89-109 cm shoulder height and
68-109 kg for the larger Dybowskis variety. Female
Dybowskis sika stand about 81 cm in height and
weigh 45-50 kg.
Distribution in Texas. Formerly,
sika were native from southern Siberia and the adjacent
Japanese island of Hokkaido south, along both the
mainland and islands, to southeastern China and Formosa.
Sika have rapidly disappeared from much of their range
due to habitat loss. Sika have been introduced in 77
counties of central and southern Texas, with free-ranging
populations known from 12 of these counties. In 1988, the
total statewide population was estimated to be 11,879.
Habits. Sika are woodland deer
characteristic of broad-leaved and mixed forests where
snowfall does not exceed 10-20 cm and snow-free sites are
also available. Large forest tracts with dense understory
and occasional clearings are ideal; the patchwork of
brush cover and open grassland found in the Edwards
Plateau and South Texas regions are well-suited to these
Sika feed on grasses, leaves, twigs,
and tender shoots of woody plants depending on seasonal
availability. In Texas, the spring preference is for
grasses, although browse may also be consumed regularly,
and browse use increases after the flush of spring growth
has passed. The most important food for sika in Texas is
live oak, with hackberry, wild plum, mustang grape, Texas
sotol, and greenbriar also serving as important browse
species. Favored grasses include Texas wintergrass, fall
witchgrass, and meadow dropseed. Forb use generally
increases in summer, and is lowest in winter.
Sika males are territorial and keep
harems of females during the rut, which peaks from early
September through October but may last well into the
winter months. Territory size varies with type of habitat
and size of the buck; strong, prime bucks may hold up to
2 ha. Territories are marked with a series of shallow
pits, called "scrapes," into which the males
urinate and from which emanates a strong, musky odor.
Fights between rival males are sometimes fierce, long,
and may even be fatal.
The time of fawning is primarily May
through August. After a 7½ - 8 month gestation period a
single fawn is born; twins are rare. Zoo longevity
records typically range from 15-18 years, although an
exceptionally long lifespan of 25 years, 5 months is
known for one animal.
* nonnative species
Photo credit: John L. Tveten.