Wild deer in the city of Nara have long been loved by tourists and locals alike, and have been protected and cared for under law. Some 1,200 deer inhabit Nara Park, pleasing visitors with their mostly harmless, tame nature.
Some of the wandering herd, however, have plagued local farmers by inflicting severe crop damage. But any talk of limiting their numbers has been taboo, because deer across the city are designated as a natural treasure under the Cultural Properties Protection Law, and also because they are considered to be "the holy messenger of god" — due to their habitat's proximity to the 1,200-year-old Kasuga Grand Shrine.
On Tuesday, the Nara Prefectural Government put an end to years of controversy over the issue, with a panel of experts concluding that it will redefine areas where deer must be protected. Capturing and culling of deer in other areas of the city will be permitted for the first time, though the prefectural government must submit a detailed plan in advance to the Cultural Affairs Agency, according to a Nara government official.