Recently Nippon Steel & Sumikin Metal Products unveiled a new type of deer bait that is not only highly effective, but also works exclusively on deer. It’s called a Yukuru and as you can see in the picture above, it’s pretty much just a regular salt lick but it contains one very important ingredient: iron.
That’s right, deer apparently go crazy for the great taste of the metal. It’s a fact that went widely overlooked until now.
■ On track
For a long time, train companies in Japan have had a hard time with deer hanging out on their tracks. It is estimated that every year some 5,000 deer are hit by trains all over the country. While those collisions alone lead to widespread delays and damage, the problem is even larger when you include the delays caused by deer that don’t get hit by trains too.
▼ “There are deer, so the Sanriku Railway isn’t moving.”
わ～ちゃん@東京夢舞M金沢F (@wakya33) August 13, 2015
▼ “Only moments before my graduation ceremony. Here we can see the landscape of the great Kingdom of Gunma and a deer that has wandered onto the tracks. A deer.”
卒業式まで後少しかー。 ここでグンマー帝国の田舎っぷりを見てもらおう。線路に迷い込んだ鹿。 鹿。 http://t.co/QdmeKLHO5n—
なななっつん改二 (@nattun_hotarun) February 28, 2014
Efforts have been made to keep the deer away from the tracks such as spraying them with lion poop. However, it would just get washed off in the rain, and there’s also the question of whether a Japanese deer would have any concept of what a lion is anyway.
It wasn’t until recently that people started to seriously consider the question of why the deer can’t seem to resist coming onto railroad tracks in the first place. There is no vegetation growing along them to feed on, and they’re all way too young to have been influenced by Rob Reiner’s Stand by Me. There must be something else that’s bringing them to the railroad all the live-long day.
■ Rich in iron
After studying the deer it was determined that they were visiting the tracks to get iron supplements for a more balanced diet. It would seem that the constant grinding of train wheels against the rails leaves behind a buffet of small iron filings that the deer can get easily their daily intake from.
With the benefit of hindsight, it makes sense. Deer meat is a good source of iron, and there have long been sightings of the free roaming deer in places like Nara munching on chains and other metal objects.
▼ “I saw many deer chewing the chains like this little one is. I’m not sure if the deer of Todaiji have an iron deficiency or what. Maybe it’s to help their teeth grow.”
この子みたいに、鎖を噛み噛みしている子を何頭か見かけた > 東大寺の鹿。鉄分不足…ではさすがにないか。歯の成長を促しているとかだろうか。 http://t.co/7znGfwEirH—
kaol, n. (@kaol) February 26, 2014
▼ “If you went to Nara Park, you might have seen deer licking chains.”
hikota (@hiko_ta) October 13, 2015
■ If you drop it, they will come
Now that it is known what the deer are looking for in on the train tracks, it’s all too easy to keep them away. Just drop a few Yukuru in a convenient location in the woods and let them hang out there instead. It can also help to lessen the ecological impact of deer either by aiding hunting to keep the population down or by simply relocating the animals.
Also, with this information, experts are now looking into whether or not train otaku might actually just be experiencing iron deficiencies too. With some strategically placed salt licks we might be able to stop small-scale population booms like the one seen in following video and all of the coarse language and shoving that occur as a result.