【Series】Spirits of the Kamuy landscape (28) Yezo sika deer eat budding grass and praise the spring

A Yezo sika deer standing atop a hill as the Sea of Okhotsk is colored by the setting sun

In Eastern Hokkaido’s Shiretoko Peninsula, snow still remains on the northwardly facing slope and the valley floor. In the Utoro area of the town of Shari in the Okhotsk region, ridges and hillocks with good sunlight have started sprouting grass shoots.

Yezo sika deer have survived a winter that blankets the earth in snow and deprives them of sufficient food sources, and now they eat the soft, newly sprouted grasses and rejoice in the coming of spring. Deer do not just eat during the brightness of daytime. In the evenings when sunlight reflects off the surface of the ocean water, they continue to move around actively in search of food.

From April through May, male deer shed their old antlers and grow new ones. Just like baby teeth in human beings, the antlers fall off suddenly with no warning. The right and left antlers do not necessarily come off at the same time. In fact, spotting Yezo sika deer with only one antler is also a characteristic of this season. Blood flows through the antlers, and the skin is reddened after the antlers shed. But after a while, the area starts to bulge, and antlers covered in short hair begin to sprout.

The antlers grow rapidly, and by autumn when the mating season starts, the hair covering them will have thinned, and they will have grown into magnificent, calcareous antlers.
(Words and photo: Shigeru Tadanobu)


Utoro area of the town of Shari