A Doe and Two Yearlings

March 16, 2021  Yesterday morning, I drove to Yasukogen and arrived just before daybreak. This area has a growing population of Sika Deer, and I was hoping to photograph them. They are quite wary, with excellent eyesight, hearing, and smell. Luckily there was no wind, and I had a line of trees to hide behind as I approached an open area where I knew they liked to forage. Peeking through the branches, I saw a lone female about 100 meters away, and she was unaware of my presence. Soon she disappeared behind a small hillock. I was surprised when she emerged on the other side with twins.  Sika deer twins are rare.  These were yearlings  who were born the previous year. They are much bigger than fawns, and have lost most of their spots.

   Sika are also called ‘whistling deer’  because they have a very loud, whistle-like alarm call.  I was surprised again when, as I took the first photo, her head shot up, looking in my direction. I didn’t move a muscle, even though only my lens was pointed through the branches of the cedar I was concealed behind. For some minutes, she stood frozen, looking in my direction for any movement as the yearlings continued eating. When she finally started nibbling on some wild blackberry leaves, I took another shot, and again she stared right at my position. For some reason, (perhaps my scent or a slight movement on my part)  she suddenly whistled the alarm, and in a flash, they were gone. 

   Sika deer populations are increasing dramatically in many  areas of Japan, and are posing a problem for farmers and gardeners. The have no predators, as the Japanese wolf went extinct over 100 years ago,(though some believe it still survives in Chichibu Tama Kai national park), hunters are decreasing in Japan, and forest lands are being cleared, creating more grazing areas for the deer.  The bird photo is of a Bush Warbler, called the Uguisu here in Japan.