A Sika deer photographed at Trinity Hill Local Nature Reserve by Sue Murphy.

Sika deer recorded for the first time at East Devon Local Nature Reserve

Nature watchers are excited by the sighting of Sika deer which were spotted at the new year at Trinity Hill Local Nature Reserve near Axminster.

Although the Sika deer is well established in the UK, it’s not a species that previously featured on the Trinity Hill records, a site which is managed by East Devon District Council’s Countryside Service.

It was sighted by local resident and keen bird watcher Sue Murphy who spotted three Sika deer, including an impressive mature stag, on one of her regular trips to the popular reserve. She managed to take a photo of the deer too.

The sighting was reported to the East Devon service, and recorded on iRecord, a website used to log wildlife sightings across the UK.

Sue said:

I’ve been a regular visitor to Trinity Hill since I moved to the area about a year ago. I mainly visit looking for birds, however it’s a great habitat for a wander as I never know what I’m going to find! Seeing three impressive Sika deer only about 15 metres away was the biggest surprise I’ve had yet.  I was able to stand quietly and watch them for about ten minutes before they disappeared into the woods. It was amazing!

Countryside Team Leader (Sites), James Chubb said:

You’d expect an animal as large as a Sika deer stag would be hard for our rangers to miss up on the expansive heath, but this is a new record for us on the site and we are really pleased to have it passed to the Countryside Service.

Cllr Iain Chubb, East Devon District Council’s portfolio member for the environment, added:

This sighting is very exciting. It really illustrates the value that our regular visitors bring to our sites in helping us monitor and record the wildlife at our reserves.

Fiona Matthews, Head of Mammal Ecology at the University of Exeter said:

Sika deer are not native to the UK, but are well-established here.  They can breed with red deer and are usually associated with conifer woodlands and heath, so the habitat at Trinity Hill looks just right for them.  This record is at the very edge of their known distribution, so it will be interesting to see whether they spread any further west.

The Trinity Hill Local Nature Reserve lies on the southern edge of Axminster and heath is popular with local dog walkers, horse riders and wildlife watchers. As part of the site’s ongoing habitat management, it is grazed by Exmoor ponies during the summer, which helps to maintain the heathland habitat for threatened wildlife including adders and nightjars.

To find out more about the sites managed by the East Devon District Council Countryside Service, or to plan a visit to Trinity Hill Local Nature Reserve visit wildeastdevon.co.uk.