This close relative of the red deer originates from eastern Asia and has been introduced to the UK. In the New Forest, sika were introduced into the Beaulieu Estate in 1900, and the New Forest population is one of the UK’s purest. Numbers are maintained at about 100. Sika are increasing in the UK, and the New Forest / Dorset area is one of its main strongholds.
Sika favour a mix of heathland and coniferous woodland. In the New Forest the population is kept to the south-east, between Brockenhurst and Beaulieu. There is a risk of cross-breeding (hybridisation) with the native red deer, so the Forestry Commission maintains a sika herd in this area because it is furthest away from the established red deer population.
Sika are sensitive to human disturbance and hide in woodland by day, venturing out onto open heath or farmland at night. They tend to be solitary for most of the year and only form small groups in winter. The best time to look for them is during the rut in October and November, but you are more likely to hear the eerie scream of the stags (males) than to see them.