Sika Deer pp 421-435 | Cite as

Irruptive Behavior of Sika Deer

  • Koichi Kaji
  • Hiroshi Takahashi
  • Hideaki Okada
  • Masao Kohira
  • Masami Yamanaka

A dominant paradigm of large herbivores is that following introduction to new range, or release from harvesting, the herbivore population at a low level will increase rapidly to a peak, followed by a crash, then recover to a lower density than peak abundance. However, supporting evidence has tended to be anecdotal. We have been monitoring two sika deer (Cervus nippon) populations and their habitats over 20 years: a deer population introduced to Nakanoshima Island (NKI) and a naturally colonizing deer population on Cape Shiretoko (CS) on Hokkaido, Japan. Both populations built to peak abundance followed by a crash, which resulted in significant effects on the vegetation. There were, however, marked differences in post-crash behavior between the two populations. Following the crash, the NKI herd continued to increase with a lower growth rate and reached a higher peak population size than the first irruption, while the CS herd showed repeated irruptions and crashes with no decline in carrying capacity (K). The NKI herd exhibited density-dependent changes in population parameters such as delayed sexual maturity, lower calf:female ratio, and lower body and antler growth as deer exceeded carrying capacity in the initial irruption. As a result of the irruption there was a decline in both winter- and summer-range quality. Thus, competition for high-quality food among sika deer in the initial irruption could have been a limiting factor, whereas unlimited abundance of poor-quality forage permitted a slower growth to even higher density in the subsequent buildup. In contrast, the CS herd exhibited a high adult survival rate and calf:female ratio and good antler growth, which indicated high quality of summer range. In addition, mortality patterns in crash years were also different between the populations; for the NKI herd, mortality was composed of both sexes in all age classes throughout years, while for the CS herd, mortality was composed mainly of calves and adult males, with few adult females. Although density-dependent resource limitation through interaction with winter climate was the important limiting factor of peak density for both populations, the carrying capacity differences and lags between summer and winter might generate different fluctuations in numbers for the two populations.


Sika Deer Deer Population Dwarf Bamboo Deer Density Population Crash 
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Copyright information

© Springer 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Koichi Kaji
    • 1
  • Hiroshi Takahashi
    • 2
  • Hideaki Okada
    • 3
  • Masao Kohira
    • 4
  • Masami Yamanaka
    • 5
  1. 1.Professor, Department of Ecoregion Science, Laboratory of Wildlife ConservationTokyo University of Agriculture and TechnologyFuchuJapan
  2. 2.Kansai Research CenterForestry and Forest Products Research InstituteFushimi-kuJapan
  3. 3.Deputy Director and Senior ResearcherShiretoko Nature FoundationShari-chouJapan
  4. 4.Head of Conservation and Management Section and Senior ResearcherShiretoko Nature FoundationShari-chouJapan
  5. 5.Director and Chief ResearcherShiretoko Nature FoundationShari-chouJapan

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