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Aichi researchers track doe in bid to reduce crop damage

Chunichi Shimbun

The Aichi Prefectural Government is using GPS to track wild deer and research new ways to keep them from damaging crops in mountainous areas.

Last month, the Aichi Prefectural Forestry Technology Center in the city of Shinshiro attached a collar with a tracking device to a doe estimated to be around 1 year old. They nicknamed her Shikami.

A similar device was placed on a buck named Shikao in February, but that deer was shot and killed.

The institute’s researchers have high hopes that by tracking Shikami’s activities, they will be able to find an effective method to combat the damage caused by foraging deer.

The doe was captured June 9 in a trap set on one of Shinshiro’s mountains.

Once the effects of the anesthesia cleared, Shikami stood up shakily and slowly trotted into the forest.

“We did feel a twinge of guilt, but we are placing high hopes on her,” said Masatoshi Satake, director of the center.

By combining the data from the GPS tracker with the information they have on terrain and vegetation, the institute hopes to learn more about the movement patterns of deer and set up nets and fences more effectively.

Damage to crops by wild deer in the area has grown into a severe problem in recent years. The monetary harm to agricultural products was estimated at ¥47.5 million in 2012, a sharp increase from ¥7.6 million in 2003.

Until three years ago, deer activity were limited to certain parts of the village of Toyone and the city of Shinshiro, but they have now spread to the mountainous area in the Mikawa district west of Shinshiro.

Current estimates indicate there are more than 3,500 wild deer in the vicinity.

Warmer temperatures are part of the reason for this increase as more deer are able to survive the winter without starving.

The exodus of humans from the rural area is also making it easier for the deer to widen their movements.

“The neighboring Shizuoka Prefecture has around 45,000 deer, and just on the Izu Peninsula area alone, agricultural damage has reached ¥100 million. Aichi Prefecture has to do something before we reach that level,” Satake explained.

“To that end, we hope that Shikami will survive,” a member of the research staff said.

The doe’s survival is important because the first attempt ended in failure. The buck captured in December was shot Feb. 14 by a hunter who did not know the prefectural government was monitoring the deer, said Noboru Yamashita, a senior researcher at the center.

“We have found that the deer were able to cross rivers without a problem and that they wander close to villages at night,” ,” Yamashita said. “We were just starting to get valuable information. It was a pity that the hunter shot him, but I suppose he can’t be blamed for it.”

As of June 21, the GPS tracker indicate that the doe named Shikami was still roaming about.

“If she survives the coming winter, we will have tracked her activities for the whole year and in all seasons,” Yamashita said.

This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published June 22.