In Nara, wild deer populate the local Nara Park as messengers from the gods, they are protected within the city. So, deer-related tourist injuries are also increasing with the increasing traffic visiting the Kansai area. In Japanese, the deer are called 鹿 (しか or shika).
The deer themselves roam freely through the park and surrounding area. Nara’s Kasuga Taisha Shrine is reason for their sacred status. The people see them as messengers of the sacred Shinto gods that inhabit the shrine and surrounding mountain ranges.
The existence of the wild deer around Nara is a key selling point for Japanese and international tourists. If you buy a pack of the senbei rice crackers sold in the area, you can feed these do the deer. However, even as polite as some of the deer are, by bowing after you feed them. They are also wild animals, and as a result can cause injury to the unsuspecting person. In fact, the number of injuries is rising rapidly each year, according to the local prefectures.
Injuries Are Up
In the fiscal year 2016-17 (1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017) there were 121 injuries recorded. In the following year, that number went up to 186. Currently, in the 2018-19 fiscal year, there are already 209 cases of tourists becoming injured from the local Shika population.
This year alone is the highest number of reported injuries ever recorded, with more critical injuries occurring too. The number of people suffering from fractures was also up, where 5 of the 8 reported fractures being international tourists.
The most sensitive season occurs during the deers mating season, and this happens from September to November at the end of each year. At this time, the deer can be particularly aggressive, so its best to never aggravate the animals. Particularly, if you are trying to feed them.
Keeping Their Numbers in Check
The prefecture continues to control numbers of deer in the area through culling. However, they are also trying their best to educate the public and visitors abroad of the potential dangers of interacting and feeding the deer. From last December too, the local area has started to hand out small leaflets in multiple languages that warn of the dangers.
The Nara Park Deer Advisory Centre regularly patrol the park and surrounding areas. They monitor the behaviour of the wild shika, but also check on their interaction with visitors. They specifically advise people to take care when feeding the deer, especially not to irritate them. Otherwise, they may react by biting, knocking someone over or even causing broken bones or other injuries.
So, when feeding the deer it is best to give them the rice crackers straight away and bow to them as a sign of respect. They should also do the same in return showing their appreciation. At all costs, avoid teasing them in any way so that you can avoid any possible injury.
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