The famous free-roaming deer of Nara Park in Nara, Japan (said to contain at least 1,500 wild deer) sometimes seem to be just as big an attraction as the nearby Nara Daibutsu, the largest bronze Buddha statue in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While sometimes regarded as messengers of Shinto deities, the deer have become emblematic of the surrounding area and are a top tourist attraction for visitors who lure them with locally purchased shika senbei (deer crackers) to take cute selfies or gain affection. Now it appears that recently the popular deer aren't reciprocating to more aggressive tactics.

The Japan Times reports that earlier this month, the Nara Prefectural Government released a statement noting that the "number of injuries caused by the deer in Nara Park hit a record 164 cases between April 1 last year and January 31, exceeding the 118 cases reported in the previous fiscal year. Of the 164 cases, around 80 percent involved foreign tourists — most of them Chinese."

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While deer in the park are generally used to the many humans that pass through everyday, they can be quite aggressive in pursuing treats and do not always respond kindly to aggressive approaches. Yuichiro Kitabata, a prefectural government official, told the Japan Times that the bites are likely incurred by tourists unfamiliar with deer-related etiquette, sometimes hiding deer treats at the last second in favor of getting a better picture, or even attempting to ride on the backs of the animals.

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While the park has a multitude of signs in foreign languages regarding behavior around deer, it seems they haven't totally deterred actions that provoke deer into reacting aggressively. The biting incidents may reflect somewhat of a double-edged sword effect of essentially living and interacting with humans so frequently, as the deer are very much used to humans and approaching them, but understandably unprepared for any aggressive antics, which results in them reacting angrily. While they are very eager to seek out anything they perceive as food, and even enter train stations and stores, the deer are for the most part well-behaved, and have famously picked up the act of "bowing" to visitors in exchange for food.

If you're fortunate enough to visit Nara and encounter the lovely deer, treat them with respect and try not to cause problems. Let's be honest, would you really want to incur the wrath of this many deer?

By - grape Japan editorial staff.