Sika Deer (Cervus nippon)

On the night drive back from Kinosaki to Kumahama we saw many sika deer. I caught this deer on camera, but wish I could have taken photos of the two males with impressive antlers we saw. They were abundant and it reminded me of our drive in the Australian outback years ago when we saw many kangaroos. We also saw a small herd of deer browsing near our hotel around dusk.

The sika deer gets its name from the Japanese word for deer, shika and that is it is also reflected in the Latin name. They are a nuisance here, and I saw many agricultural plots surrounded by fences and electric wires to keep them out. It is a testament to the advanced stage of Japan’s society, that in other parts of the deer’s range, like in China and Vietnam, they are rare due to over hunting. The wolf also became extinct in Japan, its main predator. They number in the hundreds of thousands. They are also abundant in the east of Russia.

Sika are also called spotted or Japanese deer. The Japanese subspecies however, does not have dark spots, but other subspecies do, being one of the few deer that maintain spots into adulthood. It was interesting to read that they are naturally diurnal, but in populated areas they become more nocturnal. This was certainly the case where we were staying. The sika are also the most elusive game deer because they hide and lie on their bellies when pursued by hunters, which is different than most deer.

I now have to go see them in the Nara park where they are tame and famous, regarded as somewhat holy creatures. I’ll do a blog post on that experience as well.

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