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 exotic sub species onto James Island in Dorchester County.
A Dr. Charles Laws, 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 ‘20s.
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 coat in hunting
season and reddish brown summer pelage. Add some water and the stags appear to be black. Both males and females
sometimes exhibit faint white spots 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.
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
to a dozen females in his territory. 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
Sika deer are very vocal animals and are well known for their unique sounds that range from a bugle which is
very high pitched whistle to subtle whines, mews and chirps. The alarm 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. The highest population density occurs
in Southern Dorchester County.
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