Asia

Japan's famous Nara deer face capture

Deer and tourists in Nara
Image caption The sika deer have lived in the city for centuries and claim it as their own

The free-roaming deer of Nara, Japan have become an Instagram favourite for their endearing boldness and their apparent habit of bowing to get snacks.

But starting this week, they're facing possible capture if they wander too far out of town.

Local people, particularly farmers, have been complaining that growing numbers of deer are encroaching on fields and eating crops.

So the city has authorised the use of traps to remove errant animals.

Nara, a small city and former Japanese capital south of Kyoto, is heaving with sika deer and has been for centuries.

More than 1,200 have made the city their home, mostly congregating in central Nara Park, where tourists wanting to generate a mini stampede can buy packets of crackers to feed them.

Image caption The deer are famous for having no fear or people - and for their cheeky behaviour

But they can also be seen strolling through the town centre.

Once considered sacred, the deer are now classified as a national treasure, so are protected by law.

Last year, the authorities said the deer were causing about 6bn yen ($54m; £41m) in damage to regional agriculture annually, so they would start taking action.

There had been talk of a cull, but this week, they began the less extreme solution of setting out humane deer traps in some of the worst affected areas.

"Nara has a long history of people living side by side with deer in harmony," one local government official told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

"We want to continue efforts to coexist in peace while preventing damage to crops."

Authorities are hoping to catch and release up to 120 animals before March next year.

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