Tourists were shocked to see the usually ravenous deer turn down their favourite treats.

The city of Nara, located in Kyoto’s bordering Nara Prefecture, is a well-known tourist destination, most famous for the iconic Todai-ji temple and its giant buddha, and a large population of wild-roaming deer.

Considered to be messengers of the Shinto gods, the deer in Nara are a protected species within the city, and visiting tourists delight in feeding the animals special senbei crackers sold specifically for their consumption.

The deer are so accustomed to receiving food from visitors that they’ve learnt to greet people with a bow during the interaction, and they’re usually so keen on the crackers that they’ve been known to crowd around and pursue their feeders, who can be so intimidated by the horned creatures that many have thrown their crackers in the air in an attempt to escape the hungry herd.

With their ravenous reputation being so well-known, visitors to the park were surprised to see the deer actually turning their noses up at the crackers on the weekend. The rare sight was captured by Japanese illustrator Hitoshi Yoneda, who goes by the Twitter handle @Brise_Marine, in a series of surprising photos that show the deer looking full and sleepy, and totally disinterested in eating their favourite treats.

If you’ve been to Nara, you’ll know how holding out one solitary senbei can cause the deer to come running, and they’re usually so keen to be the one to get the prized senbei, they’ll often compete with each other to get it. So to see whole piles of uneaten crackers around the animals is a rare and surprising sight.

According to Yoneda, the reason for the deer’s uncharacteristic behaviour is due to the fact that Nara was inundated with a huge number of tourists during Golden Week, a seven-day period that contains four national public holidays, making it one of the busiest holiday seasons in the entire year.

During this period, Nara’s population of visitors rose to much larger levels than normal, and with so many people keen to feed the deer, the animals ended up eating much more than usual within a short space of time.

By the second half of Golden Week, many of the deer had eaten so much that they simply couldn’t eat any more, with offerings by visitors being rejected by the animals.

Other Twitter users who visited Nara during the busy holiday period were quick to confirm that they too were shocked to see the deer look so disinterested in eating.

Judging by more recent comments, the deer have now come out of their once-a-year food coma after their epic spring feast, and are back to searching for food like usual. Let’s hope they get fed a little more routinely in future so they don’t have to stuff themselves again or resort to eating political posters like this deer did two years ago!

Source, images: Twitter/@Brise_Marine (1, 2)