Cervus nippon

Common Name(s)

Sika deer




Sika deer occur in a range of forest habitats, including black beech, silver and red beech with shrub hardwoods; mountain beech and red beech; and black beech; red beech with kamaki and shrub hardwoods; and red and silver beech with kamahi. They also inhabit areas of manuka shrubland and grassland. Due to hunting pressure they generally keep away from river flats. Sika deer are herbivorous browser and grazer with a preference in beech species and ferns. They also feed on subcanopy trees, including broadleaf, Coprpsma spp., fuchsia, putaputaweta, Pseudopanax spp., pate and wineberry.


Sika deers have a tawny chestnut coloured coat with white spots and a black dorsal stripe (from head to tail). They have a similar antler to those of red deer, but are lacking the bez tine and are smaller in size.

Similar Species

Wapiti (Cervus elaphus nelsoni), Red deer (Cervus elaphus scoticus), Sambar deer (Cervus unicolor unicolor), Rusa deer (Cervus timorensis), Axis deer (Axis axis), Fallow deer (Dama dama dama), White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus borealis) and hybrids between some of these species.

Threat To Plants

Browsing and grazing of palatable species (they are also inclined to bark-chew), which my alter species regeneration and vegetation composition. When occurring in large numbers they will destroy the understorey of native forest by overbrowsing, grazing, bark stripping and trampling, which consecutively will also increases soil erosion and therefore also the fertility of the site.


Main population in the Kaimanawa, Kaweka and Ahimanawa ranges (central North Island). Isolated populations in Northland, northern Taranaki and Wellington region (from recent illegal reseases).


Weight: 45-85kg; acrominal height: 70-95cm

Year Introduced

1905 (Kaumanawa Mountains)

Reason For Introduction

Food and game

Colonisation History

First introduced to New Zealand at Taharua Station (Kaumanawa Mountains) in 1905 (the first attempt to establish them in 1885 was unsuccessful). Sika deer are greatly favoured by recreational hunters and illegal releases outside their established range have been going on the past and lately increased in frequency (particularly in the Wellington region).