Photo/IllutrationDeer in Nara are designated a natural monument. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

NARA--Deer may be the sacred symbols of this city, but in an unprecedented move, authorities are planning to capture the animals to prevent further crop damage.

About 1,200 wild deer roam Nara Park, according to the prefectural government and other sources, and more are believed to live in farming areas east of the park, where significant damage to vegetables and fruits has been reported.

Prefectural officials plan to capture 120 deer with box traps and other measures in the Tawara and Higashisato districts east of the park. The campaign, which does not involve the use of shotguns, started July 31.

“Nara has a long history of people living side by side with deer in harmony,” said a prefectural government official. “We want to continue efforts to coexist in peace while preventing damage to crops.”

Deer in Nara have long been believed to be a divine messenger of Kasuga Taisha shrine, a World Heritage site, and they were designated a natural monument in 1957.

The prefectural government has obtained permission for the operation from the Cultural Affairs Agency because capturing deer in Nara is regulated under the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties.