NARA -- A record high of 121 people were injured by deer at Nara Park in fiscal 2016, up 29 people from the previous fiscal year, a survey by the Nara Prefectural Government has shown.
The rise reflects an increase in the number of foreign tourists visiting Nara. Of those injured by deer last fiscal year, over 70 percent, or 88 people, were foreigners. By comparison, 12 foreign visitors were injured in fiscal 2013.
According to the prefectural government's Nara Park Management Office, of the 121 people who were hurt by deer in fiscal 2016, 79 were about to or were in the midst of feeding "shika senbei" (deer crackers) to the deer, or had just finished feeding the deer.
Of those who were injured, 88 suffered minor injuries that merely required some disinfectant and a small bandage, while 10 suffered bruises. Meanwhile, one person suffered a broken bone, and six had to get stitches.
Of the 88 foreign tourists who were injured by deer, 77 were Chinese nationals. Many of them reported their injuries out of concern that they would contract rabies. Nara Prefectural Government officials explained that rabies currently does not exist in Japan, but some of the injured people requested that ambulances be dispatched or that they be given rabies vaccinations.
In the seven years since fiscal 2010, 461 people have been injured by deer in Nara. By month, the highest number of people, at 87, were injured in August, while 71 were injured in September, and 54 were injured in October. According to Yutaka Yoshioka of the Foundation for the Protection of Deer in Nara, bucks are in heat between late August and late November. Thus, teasing deer with crackers around this time of year increases one's chances of being scraped with their antlers.
According to the Nara Municipal Government, 975,000 foreign nationals visited Nara Prefecture in 2015, up 54.7 percent compared to the previous year. The Nara Prefectural Government expects the number of foreign tourists to continue increasing, and has installed 40 signs in Nara Park warning visitors of the risks of being bitten or charged at by deer in English, Chinese and Korean, and there are plans to put up even more signs.
"Since tourists come to the park to see the deer, we want to prevent accidents so that visitors can enjoy their time here," a representative for the Nara Park Management Office said.