Sika deer in Dorset

Scrambling up the vegetated slumps beneath Houns-tout yesterday, trying to get up to the coastal path towards Renscombe, I found a narrow track, and thought I was following a very infrequently used trackway.

Then I saw hoofprints, and decided it was a sheep route instead.  It was certainly blooming hard going, and not a pedestrian walkway I would recommend using.

The foreshore beneath Houns-tout, Purbeck, Dorset.

But as I was hacking my way through a particularly thorny patch of scrubby terrain, wondering if I'd ever get to the top of the cliff, three large creatures suddenly burst out of the thicket beneath me, paused for a moment, and dashed off to the west.

Those weren't sheep, I muttered in surprise, those were deer!

They weren't deer I was familiar with, though: dark brown, quite large, and only one with antlers (and even then, not very big antlers).  What species were they, I wondered, and what were a trio of them doing on a cliff-side on the Isle of Purbeck?

A short search online later, and I had my answers: Japanese sika (Cervus nippon) for the former, and 'making a decent fist of invasive living' the latter.  Clearly that even stretches to vegetated landslides between Egmont Bight and Chapman's Pool*.

A sika in Dorset.

*on which I was amused to read: 'Houns-tout cliffs are difficult and wild and best left to the deer'.
By the end of my journey, I was very much inclined to agree.