Sika deer and Japanese boar populations are exploding in Japan and local governments are recruiting youth to reduce their populations by taking up hunting.
The number of people hunting in Japan has been declining for 40 years. That's a problem for farmers who are plagued by deer and boars damaging their crops. Damage costing 20 billion yen, or roughly $165 million, is the annual toll.
There are only about 200,000 hunters in Japan. That's almost one-third the number 4o years ago. And most of the remaining hunters are over 60 years old.
Meanwhile, the sika deer population is over 2.6 million animals. That's up from roughly 350,000 in the late 1990s. Japanese boar populations have tripled during that same time period to roughly 900,000.
Those two destructive animals are believed responsible for as much as 60 percent of all agricultural damage. With their numbers way up and hunter numbers way down, the solution is more hunters. Local governments have sponsored events to educate potential young hunters. Some events included providing a forum for young hunters to talk about their experiences.
Japan's Environmental Ministry recognizes there are significant impediments to citizens taking up the sport of hunting. A hunting license costs over $1,600 to obtain. Then there is the gun ownership issue. Japanese citizens have no right to own firearms. Japan has essentially outlawed private gun ownership, with only a few exceptions. Shotguns and air rifles may be owned, but only after a lengthy application and testing process. Centerfire rifle ownership appears to be even harder to pull off.
But the Ministry has established a goal of reducing the populations of deer and boars by 50%. The Japanese Parliament approved a measure to allow commercial control of nuisance animals, but as yet, no contracts have been issued. The national hunter's association has developed a web page to provide information and encourage new hunters to get started. There is even a focus on attracting young females to become hunters, specifically through social media.
Clearly there are many obstacles to increasing the number of hunters in Japan, but it sounds like the opportunities for success are high for those who overcome those obstacles.