If asked to imagine deer in Japan, one’s mind may turn to thoughts of docile herbivores gently eating out of tourists’ hands in Nara. Less likely to come to mind are the unchecked herds of hulking 300-pound deer picking clean growing swaths of Japan’s forests and farmland. But that is increasingly the reality facing Japan, with deer responsible for millions of dollars in crop damage each year.
It is a situation retired professor Naoki Maruyama hopes to fix. The chairman of the Japan Wolf Association, Maruyama believes that the reintroduction of wolves—extinct in Japan for the better part of a century—can help curb the damage caused by deer and restore ecological balance to affected regions of the country.