Wild deers at Nara Park, Japan have injured more foreigners than locals in the current fiscal year, local officials confirmed on Tuesday.
As of late January, the renowned tourist attraction hit a record high of 209 cases, eight of which were “serious” and included broken bones.
The number quadrupled over the last five years to the current fiscal year, which started in April 2018.
Of the 209 cases, around 80% were non-Japanese tourists, who may have sustained their injuries while feeding the deer with special rice crackers.
According to Kyodo News, many of the injuries are believed to have occurred when the tourists took photos of themselves while teasing the deer.
Often, they would pose for the camera while holding the crackers out of reach, agitating the animals.
A tourist feeds a deer at Nara Park. Image via Instagram / imkeziahgrace
More than 1,000 deer designated as national treasures roam the 600-hectare (six-square-kilometer) park, which has seen a tenfold surge of 2.09 million foreign visitors from 2012 to 2017.
Interestingly, while injuries among non-Japanese people have continued to increase, those among locals have remained steady.
A male tourist hands out food to a deer. Image via Instagram / narakimonorental
At the start of the fiscal year, the Nara Prefectural Government started installing signs on how to safely feed the deer in multiple languages throughout the park and nearby cracker shops.
The signs, which come in English, Chinese and Japanese, urge visitors to feed the crackers right away instead of teasing the deer with them.
Five deer gather around a tourist who just bought crackers. Image via Instagram / annezhdanova
Additionally, those planning to feed the deer must show their hands to let them know when they have run out of food.
“At first sight it seems that the deer are calm but, because they are wild, they can attack people,” said Akimasa Yoshimura, head of a civic group that provides information about feeding deer to foreign tourists. “One of the good things about Nara is the opportunity for people to interact with deer. We would like to reduce trouble between them as much as possible so that they would like to come back again.”
A tourist takes a selfie with some deer at the park. Image via Instagram / dq997
The previous fiscal year saw a total of 186 injuries. According to Japan Today, most injuries occur between September and November, the mating season when the deer become more aggressive.