National

Deer population in Nara Park at record size despite deaths from illness, accidents and plastic

Kyodo

The deer population in Nara Park, a popular tourist attraction, has increased for the third straight year to a record 1,388, a local organization said Monday.

The figure was the highest since record-keeping began in the 1950s.

The Nara Deer Preservation Foundation said the latest annual survey, conducted earlier this month, confirmed there are at least 28 more deer than last year. The group attributed the increase to there being 275 fawns born, 37 more than were observed in the previous count.

In addition to the fawns, the total population is believed to consist of 357 bucks and 756 does.

In the year to late June, 179 deer died in the park — down nine from the previous year, with sickness causing 87 deaths and incidents with vehicles 34.

Of the 87, three died after swallowing plastic bags or other items.

The deer population study has been conducted every July since the 1950s, after the does give birth. Researchers form one line and walk across the park from west to east in order to count the deer.

“Many deer die in traffic accidents or from accidentally consuming inedible products,” said Yoshitaka Ashimura, a senior official at the foundation. “We hope to watch the fawns born this year grow healthily.”

The local government was prompted to start an information campaign after a number of deer that died were found to have plastic bags in their stomachs.

The deer roam in the vast park and tourists are allowed to feed them with digestive and sugar-free shika sembei (deer crackers), which are sold in nearby shops and do not use plastic wrapping. But some tourists are apparently giving them other foods, which could be resulting in the animals ingesting plastic.

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