Venison: Sika Deer
Types of Venison – Sika Deer Overview
Genus: Cervus nippon
“Sika” is the Japanese word for “deer” (pronounced “shee-kah”) and is a common form of venison. The small-to-medium sized Sika Deer originally lived in Siberia, throughout Japan & southeastern China, and as far south as Taiwan. Sika meat provides the true “venison experience” as it is the strongest flavored of all venisons, a taste especially popular in China where they are farmed. The velvet is popularly used in traditional Chinese medicine.
Although natural populations are hard to find in native lands other than Japan, the Sika Deer has been introduced to Australia, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Britain, France, Ireland, Philippines, New Zealand, Poland, Morocco and the United States. They are overly abundant and tame in Japan where there are no wolves and few hunters. Where they are hunted, they are a prized quarry due to their highly effective survival techniques which differ greatly from local species. For example, where the Red Deer will flee, the Sika will squat and hide, leaving the hunters nonplussed! They are considered a nuisance species in many countries due to the Sika’s easy hybridization with native deer.
Sika Venison Characteristics
Sika Deer prefer broad-leaved and mixed woodlands and are an especial danger to young woodland areas in Britain. Because hiding is one of their main survival skills, they prefer areas with a dense understory and just a few clearings, or grassland with brush cover.
They do not do well in heavy snowfall. Sika Deer both browse and graze. Texas populations, for example, enjoy their local diet of live oak, hackberry, wild plum, mustang grape and greenbriar. Grasses they eat include Texas wintergrass, fall witchgrass and meadow dropseed. They consume forbs mostly in summer.
Sika Venison Ecology
In wilder, remote areas, they are active by day, but they will turn noctural in areas with close proximity to human habitations. Herds migrate to higher elevations in summer and gather up in larger groups during the fall and winter. Stag herds will generally live separately from the hinds and their offspring, and some individuals choose to forage alone. Sika Deer are naturally boisterous and vocal, with a reperatory of at least ten sounds, from whistles to screams.
The rut begins in September, when stags begin marking their territories with a series of shallow pits marked with their musky-smelling urine. A particularly strong stag may rule over an area as large as five acres, collecting his harem and fighting off rivals, even to the death. The rut can last well into the winter months and fawns are born May through August.
Introduced Sika Deer have no natural enemies other than the wolf and populations must be controlled through culling. Land managers reckon it is three to four times more difficult to cull the Sika Deer due to its wariness and extremely clever protective instincts. They are truly the “ninja” of the venison world!