Sika Deer pp 475-499 | Cite as

Sika Deer in Russia

  • Vladimir V. Aramilev

Sika deer (Cervus nippon hortulorum) were originally distributed over much of Primorsky Krai (an administrative division in the Russian Far East similar to a U.S. state) in Far East Russia, occupying coastal and inland valley deciduous and mixed deciduous-pine forests up to about 500 m elevation, with isolated individuals in favored habitat at higher elevations. Their limits to the north extend into southern Khabarovsky Krai along the Ussuri River Valley, and along the seacoast to the vil lage of Malaya Kema. These limits are set by winter snow depth, which also limits their occupation of higher elevations in the Sikhote-Alin mountain range. Sika deer were translocated in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to other coun tries and to European Russia where they have shown considerable adaptive capacity by acclimatizing to severe winter conditions. Sika deer feed primarily on forest understory vegetation and on herbaceous plants in forest openings. Their native forage is deficient in sodium so they seek sources of salt at the seashore, from min eral soils and springs, or from aquatic freshwater plants with high sodium content. Sika deer displace other ungulate competitors from their preferred habitats and, in high numbers, can have serious impacts on vegetation. There is some interbreeding between sika deer and wapiti, but intermediate phenotypes are rare. Overhunting beginning in the late 1800s and extending through World War II resulted in a severe decline in the sika deer numbers and distribution. At the same time, many sika deer were raised in farms for commercial production of antlers and other products. In the last 25 years there has been an increase in the wild population and expan sion of the distribution across Primorsky Krai. Now sika deer occupy most of their original range, apparently colonizing all suitable habitats. Serious anthropogenic pressure, both a loss of habitat and hunting, has not hindered this growth in the number and dispersal of sika deer, although some former habitat along the seacoast has been lost to human development. Sika deer in farms are not very economically viable at present. The re-occupation of the original range consisted of both wild and farm-escaped deer, but genetic studies show that they are all of the original genetic stock. Their increase has occurred despite serious predation pressure by tigers and leopards, and illegal hunting; they are currently managed for sustainable harvest.


Sika Deer Musk Deer Wild Deer Antler Velvet Manchurian Walnut 
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Copyright information

© Springer 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vladimir V. Aramilev
    • 1
  1. 1.Scientist, Laboratory of Nature Resources Use, Pacific Institute of GeographyFar-Eastern Branch, Russian Academy of ScienceVladivostokRussia

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