The animals are the symbol of the city, but our local reporter is worried they might be migrating away.

Pretty much everyone who goes to Nara Park is there to see one thing: deer. Considered messengers of the Shinto gods, the animals roam free in wild herds, and no trip to Nara City is complete without posing for a picture or two with the cultural and adorable animals, often while feeding them some “deer rice rackers” purchased  from local vendors.

However, recently you don’t necessarily have to go to Nara Park in order to see Nara deer. The coronavirus outbreak has severely reduced the number of human visitors to Nara, and in recent months, the deer have been spotted in places farther and farther outside the park.

The phenomenon is drawing the attention of local residents, including our Japanese-language reporter K. Masami. She’s seen deer strolling down residential streets, and one of her friends also came across a group of them hanging out under a house’s carport during a passing rain shower.

Granted, it’s not like anyone is complaining about the deer expanding their range of activity outside the park. Masami says that coexisting with the deep is something that’s just part of living in Nara, so no one gets aggravated when they spot a deer jaywalking or munching on a campaign poster.

But what Masami has been worrying about is her fear that the deer might permanently relocate outside of the park. As a symbol of the city, and also a tangible part of its cultural heritage, just imagining a Nara Park with no deer is enough to break her heart.

So once again Masami picked up the phone and called the Nara Deer Preservation Foundation. When a representative came on the line, Masami got straight to the point and asked “Is there a chance the deer might be leaving the park for good?”

Thankfully, the representative quickly put her mind at ease. Deer, he explained, are by nature cautious creatures. While it’s one thing for the deer to be accustomed people visiting the park and its immediate surroundings, warnings still go off in their animal minds when they perceive a human-dominated environment. They’re only moving farther into the city, the rep explained, because Nara isn’t just receiving fewer travelers, but locals themselves are going out less during the pandemic.

So while nowadays the deer feel fine walking down quiet concrete streets, once human activity gets back to normal levels, they’ll scale back their strolls to the still spacious Nara Park. After all, the foundation reminded us, it’s not like there are fences around Nara Park keeping the deer in anyway. They’ve been free to leave any time they wanted to, but they choose to remain because it’s their home, as it’ll continue to be so in the future.

Photos ©SoraNews24
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
[ Read in Japanese ]