Sitka Deer

name = Sitka Deer

regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
classis = Mammalia
ordo = Artiodactyla
familia = Cervidae
genus = "Odocoileus"
species = "O. hemionus"
subspecies = "O. h. sitkensis"
trinomial = "Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis"
trinomial_authority = Merriam, 1898
The Sitka Deer or Sitka Black-tailed Deer ("Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis"), is a subspecies of Black-tailed Deer, sometimes referred to as the Mule Deer. Their name originates from Sitka, Alaska. Weighing in on average between 80 and 120 pounds, Sitka deer are characteristically smaller than other types of black-tailed deer. Reddish-brown in the summer, their coats darken to a gray-brown in the winter. They are also good swimmers, and can occasionally be seen crossing deep channels between islands. Their average life span is about 10 years but a few are known to have attained an age of 15. [ [ Alaska Dept of Fish and Game, "Sitka Black-tailed Deer", by Harry Merriam, John Schoen & Dave Hardy, dated 2003] ]

Habitat and Life Patterns

Sitka deer inhabits the coastal rainforests of northern British Columbia, Canada and southeastern Alaska, United States. They have also been found on the islands of the Alexander Archipelago, Yakutat, Prince William Sound, Kodiak and Afognak.

Sitka deer can be both migratory and residental depending on their habitat, but during winter months they primarily reside in old or mixed age forest growth below 1500 feet. [ [ "Sitka Black-tailed Deer"] ] The rut peaks in mid-November and fawns are born in the early June and weigh 6 to 8 pounds.


Sitka Deer primarily eat green vegetation. However during the intense Alaskan winters, they will also feed on woody matter such as lichen. Sitka Deer has no upper teeth so they have to mash their food with the roof of their mouth and their tongue and gulp down large pieces which are then digested by bacteria in the stomach. Since this bacteria is so specialized, they have tremendous difficulty digesting strange material and can die of starvation with their bellies full of food. Sitka deer can also regurgitate food, comparible to the "cud" of a cow.

Population and Hunting

Sitka deer population fluctuate considerably due the harsh Alaskan winters. However they are an abundant species that rapidly recovers from low populations and are not designated at risk.

Natural predation consists of wolves, brown bear and black bear. Human predation seems to have little to no effect on Sitka deer populations, however clear-cut logging has been shown to adversily affect populations. Normal adult antlers are often small in size; very few deer score above a 110 on the Boone and Crockett system.

Sitka Deer in the Media

Jewelie and Jade, two orphaned Sitka fawns, were shown on Animal Planet's show "Growing Up...".


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