Nara, Japan, Treats its Deer Like Sacred Cows; Other Cities Worldwide Contemplate Reduction

Nara Deer Accost Tourist, by petitshoo

The sika deer in Nara, Japan, have it made: they are treated like the sacred cows of India, allowed to wander everywhere and eat pretty much whatever they want. James Dorsey writes in the LA Times that the deer have learned to bow to visitors. Vendors and vending machines sell “deer courtesy crackers” (鹿煎餅 Shika-senbei)  and outdoor restaurants provide diners with the biscuits so they can get the deer to leave them alone.

Japanese writer Noboru Ogata says that the sitka deer (Cervus nippon) have been around the Kasuga Shrine (near Osaka) since the 12th Century and were considered a good omen from the gods. Since they were literally sacred gift, people were put to death for killing them. Now they are officially a national treasure. About 1200 roam the city park. They have an annual Shika Tsuno Kiri festival to trim the deer’s horns.

The Nara deer are probably some of the best treated in the world. Especially when you consider some ways people have been trying to handle their deer lately:

England: The Brits generally love their deer and even have deer parks with deer safaris. But lately they’ve had a bit much of them, Wildlife Extra says. Populations of all species–two native, four introduced–are on the rise. Wildlife minister Huw Irranca-Davies, declared the diminuitive muntjac deer, deer non grata. The Duke of Bedford once kept the tiny deer as pets, but, the British Deer Society says, they now roam south and central England and Wales. Here’s their handy map.

Austin, TX, wants to trap deer, send them to a butcher and donate the meat to charity.

Suburban Chicago Will County wants to start allowing hunting in forest preserves.

For decades Pennsylvania managed its deer population to produce more deer to hunt. Now it wants to reduce deer numbers (and car accidents) by forcing hunters to shoot does instead of bucks. But a group of hunters objects, saying the state really has a deer shortage, Philly.com reports.

Where to Go to See Unusual Deer

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