Chesapeake Science

, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 79–95 | Cite as

Factors in the mass mortality of a herd of sika deer,Cervus nippon

  • John J. Christian
  • Vagn Flyger
  • David E. Davis


A six year population study on sika deer,Cervus nippon, introduced in 1916 on James Island in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, provided unique results because of the unusual completeness of the data due to an islandic situation. A density of one deer per acre was reached in 1955. In 1958, 60 percent of the population, mainly young and females, died during January and February. Gross and microscopic studies were made on 18 deer, shot and autopsied in 1955, 1957–60, plus one recently dead at the time of the die-off.

Adrenal weight increased, especially in the young, from 1955 to 1958 and then dropped 50 percent following the die-off. Inhibition of growth observed before and during the die-off vanished afterwards. Changes in the adrenalzona glomerulosa and medulla suggested overstimulation and a severe imbalance of fluid-electrolyte metabolism as the cause of the die-off. These changes may have been secondary to prolonged hyper-stimulation of the cortex as a result of excessive population density and its resultant social pressures. An inclusion hepatitis and glomerulonephritis are described which involved all deer, especially after 1958, but not in 1955. These diseases were ruled out as causal factors in the die-off, as were malnutrition and poisoning. The deer were apparently in good nutritive status throughout.

It was concluded that physiological derangements resulting from high population density produced the observed effects.


Glomerulonephritis Sika Deer Mass Mortality Zona Glomerulosa Capillary Loop 
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Copyright information

© Estuarine Research Federation 1960

Authors and Affiliations

  • John J. Christian
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Vagn Flyger
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • David E. Davis
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Penrose Research LaboratoryZoological Society of PhiladelphiaUniversity Park
  2. 2.Department of PathologyUniversity of PennsylvaniaUniversity Park
  3. 3.Maryland Department of Research and EducationAnnapolis
  4. 4.Department of ZoologyPennsylvania State UniversityUniversity Park

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