Nine deer at Japanese park die after eating plastic bags

A volunteer picks up plastic products during a clean-up campaign at a park in Nara, western Japan Credit: Kyodo News via AP

Nine deer at a famed park in western Japan have died recently after swallowing plastic bags.

Nara Park has more than 1,000 deer and tourists can feed them special sugar-free crackers sold in shops nearby.

The crackers do not come in plastic bags but people still carry them.

A veterinarian said the deer may associate the plastic with food.

The Nara Deer Preservation Foundation said nine of the 14 deer which have died since March had plastic in their stomachs.

A veterinarian said the deer may associate the plastic with food. Credit: Twitter/Nara Park

Masses of tangled plastic litter and packets of snacks were retrieved from their stomachs, with the heaviest amount weighing 4.3kg.

Rie Maruko, a veterinarian who belongs to the animal conservation group, was quoted by Kyodo News as saying the dead deer were so skinny he could feel their bones.

Deer have four-chambered stomachs and eating objects that cannot be digested can leave them malnourished and weakened.

They are traditionally a messenger of gods in Japan’s native Shinto religion and roam freely in the park in the capital city of Nara prefecture.

Volunteers participated in a clean-up campaign in the park on Wednesday.