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Japan used to have wolves, but they were wiped out more than 100 years ago.
Now, with a growing Sika deer population, the Japanese realize they are going to have to either bring back wolves or create a deer hunting culture.
But does Japan have the land for wolves?
While Americans think of Japan as crowded due to images of cramped Tokyo apartments and bullet trains, forests actually cover fully two-thirds of Japan, more than Brazil, and about the same as Sweden. About 60 percent of Japan's forests are natural, left to nature to manage, and about 40 percent are plantation forests.
Lacking much of a hunting culture, Japan has turned to culling operations, including the use of sharp-shooters, enclosure traps, and high-tech traps. The goal is to cut the deer population in half by 2025.
The Japanese public’s response to the slaughter of 1.5 million animals is unclear.
“Most people do not know the detailed plan of the government,” Nambu observed. “They become vaguely aware of massive killing, but do not want to be involved.”
Deer are not the only wildlife threatening forests in Japan. Wild boar are rapidly increasing as well, drawn to abandoned farmland and expanding their range north in response to climate change. They now number 890,000. If wolves were reintroduced, they would likely include these animals as prey, based on predator dynamics in southern Europe.