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SIKA D E E R - N E W T O S U F F O L K , 1988 C . R . NAUNTON

While out birdwatching in north-east Suffolk on 3rd May 1988,1 noticed a medium-sized male deer in the company of a herd of young Fresian cattle. At first I thought it was a Roe Deer but as it appeared to be larger than that species, I eventually decided it was probably a Sika Deer (Cervus nippon (Temminck)). I could not be certain for it was an immature animal with short straight antlers. By 2nd June the deer had shed its antlers, and the new ones were growing in velvet. For much of the time the deer, which was only seen in the evenings, remained in company with the cattle. I last saw the stag on 13th June and as I could not locate him on subsequent visits I presumed he had moved on. On 29th September, two fields away from the original sighting, I saw what was probably the same individual and once again he was amongst cattle. By now the animal was fully grown with larger, branched antlers and a darker coat. Although it appeared to prefer the company of the cattle, at times it would wander off for a short distance to graze. Occasionally I saw him show slight aggression toward the cattle as if they were his hinds. The last sighting was on 8th October. From the size and shape of the antlers, the colour of the coat and the prominence of the hock (metatarsal) gland I decided it was a Sika Deer, although I was not sure of the tail markings. I sent a transparency of the deer to Daphne M. Hills of the Natural History Museum who confirmed it as a Sika Deer and remarked that there is a degree of individual variation in this species. Confirmation of the identification from my transparencies was also received from the Suffolk Biological Records Centre. They informed me that this is the first record of this species in the wild from Suffolk and suggested it had probably escaped from a captive herd at Kessingland Wildlife Park. There are feral herds established in several parts of Britain and numbers have increased in recent years particularly in Scotland and Ireland. The species is able to hybridise with the closely related Red Deer (Cervus elaphus Linn.) and some herds in deer parks may be of hybrid stock. I thank Daphne Hills and the SBRC for their assistance. C. R. Naunton, 36 Pinewood Avenue, Oulton Broad, Lowestoft, NR33 9AQ

Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 27 (1991)

Plate 7: Sika Deer. Cervus nippon. This individual was most likely an escapee, (p. 5). (Phcxo C. R. Naunlon)

Sika deer - new to Suffolk, 1988  

Clive Naunton

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