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Deer culling issue on full boilPosted: January 17, 2012

Anyone who lives in the East Kootenay who has open eyes and does lots of driving and gardening knows they are a problem.

Everyone wants something to be done.

An all-too-common-sight in the East Kootenay - a deer and vehicle accident. Here a Cranbrook RCMP officer had to put a deer out of its misery following an accident last March.

But that’s where commonality of opinion regarding the urban deer issue seems to end.

The City of Cranbrook was the first of three municipalities in the region to obtain a Ministry of Forests, Land and Natural Resource Operations permit to cull 25 mule or whitetail deer from herds within the city boundaries.

Contractor Carmen Purdy began setting clover traps on Dec. 6 and two weeks later he was finished.

Shrubs and trees - naturally - provide fine winter feed for deer, much to the consternation of gardeners.

Next up are the City of Kimberley and District of Invermere, each permitted to cull 100 deer from within their boundaries.

That was the tipping point for some folks in the region, who argue that culling is not the way to go. Each of the three municipalities given the green light to trap and exterminate (using a bolt gun) deer formed legislation and directions based on urban deer committees.

Kimberley began its cull January 3 and by Jan. 9 Mayor Ron McRae was reporting that 25 animals had been killed. That night, at Kimberley’s regular meeting of council, the Humane Treatment of Urban Wildlife Committee (HTUW), with members in the three culling communities and elsewhere, including Grand Forks which is also conducting a cull, appeared to ask council to halt the cull.

Council voted to send the request to the city’s Operations Committee, but the cull continues.

A fence or a dog or perhaps wildlife injured this young deer in Kimberley.

The next night, HTUW’s interim chair Colleen Bailey also appeared before District of Invermere council to introduce the group and also request for a suspension of culling activity.

“We are a newly formed grassroots East Kootenay organization focused on working with communities on finding humane solutions for urban wildlife management,” Bailey told council, adding, “I want to acknowledge that we understand that the appearance of our group expressing interest in Invermere’s urban deer management method may be a bit frustrating for current council at this time.”

“I assure you, had we known or understood the proposed method to be employed, and the ramifications of the proposed solution, we would have been involved sooner. Our founding membership was unaware of the culls

Deer stroll through a Radium Hot Springs subdivision.

or processes until the Cranbrook cull made the news in December and a concerned citizen contacted us. It was at that time, the founding members of Humane Treatment of Urban Wildlife began its research recognizing that the Kimberley and Invermere culls were impending. As such, we needed to understand the process, the science and the ramifications.

“With that, I am writing you as a representative of not only Humane Treatment of Urban Wildlife, but also for your constituents who have expressed concerns. We are respectfully asking council to postpone the Invermere urban deer cull,” Bailey asked, adding, “Through our independent research we have discovered that critical information, which could have assisted your decision making ability, may have been overlooked. This information could change the outcome of the review and decision of whether or not to perform a cull, and whether or not to use the clover trap/bolt gun method.”

Bailey pointed out that culls are ineffective “as shown by the Compensatory Rebound Effect, which has been observed in studies conducted by the University of Tennessee, the United States Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Services and documented in the Journal of Wildlife Management.

“Clover net and bolt guns are an inhumane method of killing deer,” Bailey continued, pointing out that a 1997 scientific study that demonstrated deer that were immobilized and killed using a captive bolt gun “exhibited blood cortisol levels that were 10 times higher than deer killed by rifle shot. Blood cortisol, excreted by the adrenal glands under conditions of duress, is considered by scientists to be an accurate measure of an animal’s physiological and psychological stress.

“The BCSPCA is opposed to the inhumane culling of urban deer and encourages the use of non-lethal strategies to address urban deer issues for the long-term. Culling is only a temporary solution and should not be used as the default management practice when communities are experiencing high deer population levels and increased deer-human conflict,” Bailey stated.

“We are asking council to postpone the deer cull decision in order to provide us more time to review and audit all information related specifically to the Invermere urban deer situation, management methods and to then have time to present our findings to the current Deer Committee and council,” she concluded.

Invermere council voted to continue with the cull but added a cancellation clause at 10 deer as a precautionary measure.

Like Cranbrook and Kimberley councils, the decision to enact the cull did not come easy.

Invermere Mayor Gerry Taft said he’s been hearing all sides in the last few years, since the notion of culling first began to do the municipal council rounds in the region, and believes the most heated opposition is coming from outside the East Kootenay.

“There was some opposition, with one lady comparing me and council to Hitler and the Nazis killing Jewish people,” he exclaimed, adding, “Over the last couple of days we have received quite a few emails from animal rights groups based in Vancouver and elsewhere asking us to stop or delay any consideration of the cull.

“There was some discussion by council about whether or not we had enough information to proceed with the decision. Councillor (Spring) Hawes stated that she was not comfortable with this being annual or normal management practice, but was willing to consider this as a trial. Coun. (Justin) Atterbury expressed concern for the safety of children in the community and spoke in favour of proceeding,” Taft said, adding, “I personally feel, based on the time and effort we have spent analyzing the information, this is the right decision to partner with the province and to try this technique of dealing with habituated urban deer, and then measure where this was effective or not.”

‘Conditional’ support has been the order of the day for most elected officials, who have stated they don’t like the idea of a cull but something must be done to address the growing problem.

“I think that the boom in deer herds in urban areas, including Invermere, is caused by a range of human induced pressures resulting from the encroachment of urban development into rural and wild areas.  Although this is a very challenging situation, we can improve our land development practices to ensure the protection of viable open spaces and the development of vibrant and sustainable communities from this point forward.  This will not, however, address the immediate situation,” said District of Invermere Coun. Paul Denchuk.

“I believe that the increased deer herds in Invermere have created two very concerning issues:  public safety resulting from aggressive, habituated animals, and the risk of disease spreading through the herd and putting all ungulates in the valley at risk. For these reasons I am conditionally supportive of the deer cull, as long as we can determine that it is in fact humane,” he said.

By committing to be present for the euthanization of the first 10 deer, I believe council can move forward with great integrity on the decision to either continue with the cull or put a stop to it. Also, a cull is not the final answer – we must also bear responsibility for our own role in the herd’s expansion.  It is imperative that council and the community follow through on all of the other recommended actions as well, or we will simply find ourselves back in this position one year from now, which would be an unacceptable outcome.  Education and bylaw enforcement about not feeding the deer, more rigorous land use planning, and a collaborative approach to wildlife management are required.  And I cannot think of a better time to consider an urban containment boundary for Invermere. If we concentrate our development efforts on the town that we have instead of expanding and growing outward we can limit the effects we have on our natural surroundings and the wildlife that inhabit it,” Denchuk said.

Coun Spring Hawes also provided her viewpoint: “While the idea of killing the deer is very upsetting to me, and I dislike it very much, I did vote in support of the cull. Here’s why: As a result of a high number of complaints and concerns raised by residents of Invermere, a Deer Committee was formed, made up of councillors, volunteers, and a rep from the B.C government. They were tasked with researching all aspects of the urban deer population issue, including health and safety considerations, monitoring, and best practices. After months of work, the committee presented their report.

“I respect and appreciate the time, effort and knowledge that went into that report. I believe its findings are rational, well-thought-out and balanced. (For the record, although I didn’t sit on that committee, I did take the time to attend some of the meetings and read much, if not all, of the background information they referred to.) I supported the adoption of the report, with a qualifying statement that I support the report, and its seven recommendations, as a complete document – not a ‘thumbs up’ to do a cull and stop there. I have repeated that statement at every opportunity, including the All Candidate’s Forum,” Hawes said.

“I do not believe culling is an ethical, sustainable way to manage an urban deer population,” she continued, adding, “I have supported it as a one-time intervention, and only as a single component to a multi-pronged approach. In response to Councillor Denchuk’s motion, I have made a personal commitment to observe the actual clover net and bolt gun process, in order to judge the humaneness of it for myself. To be clear, I am dreading that day. I am not a hunter. I’ve never killed anything (other than spiders), and doubt very much that I could. I only buy meat from sources I trust – no feedlots or slaughter house factories.

“I absolutely sympathize with those who are upset by this action.  I am too. If I used only my emotions to make decisions, I would have voted otherwise. However, I believe in using my rational brain, too. I don’t think it would be responsible to disregard the information and knowledge included in the deer report, based solely on my emotional response. That being said, this is the one, and only, cull that I will support. I will push very hard to begin implementation of the other, non-lethal recommendations immediately, in order to manage the deer population in a sustainable way,” Hawes stated.

Meanwhile, it seems the Elk Valley’s three municipalities are steering clear of the issue of urban deer, thus far, though Fernie has held discussions.

“The city has not taken any position with respect to urban deer in Fernie. It was the topic of some discussion amongst council members at the last meeting (January 9) but that did not result in any position statement or direction from the council,” offered city chief administrative officer Allan Chabot.

On Jan. 10, e-KNOW asked on its Facebook page: “Deer culling: right or wrong? What is your view? Right or wrong? Tell us.”

The following are comments received

Shelly Shaw stated: “Moved to Cranbrook just when the deer ‘problem’ hit the news. Cannot stress enough how disturbing I find this ‘culling.’ It shames me to think that my adopted home town would do this. Part of living here is the beauty of the place and the wildlife. Have been in extreme close contact with both deer and other wildlife here with no problems. I show the wildlife the respect it deserves and in return I get untold joy from it. Have had a doe give birth in my front yard. Stayed inside, watched and saw nature at its very best. Stop this senseless killing of animals; instead embrace what you have. If you don’t like wild life perhaps a move to the coast is in your future. See how you like the ‘wildlife’ down there.”

Robin Nering Goldsbury added, “Humans have been hunting (essentially culling) deer for a very long time. We have now anthropomorphized the animal kingdom (i.e. Bambi) and failed to realize natural cycles, food chains and balance. If the problem was rats, I’m sure many would have no offence to culling. It would be great if the meat and hides could be put to good use.”

While Prevea Art & Imports noted, “I have no problem with the cull, however, I have not heard of any viable plan that will prevent this from happening again. What are they going to do to stop future deer from becoming ‘urbanized;’ do they have a plan? If the plan is we will just keep killing all deer that come into town then I would not support it.”

If you have something to say about deer culling in the region – please send in a letter to the editor to: [email protected]

Ian Cobb/e-KNOW

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7 Responses to Deer culling issue on full boil

  1. Pingback: Oh deer, the zeitgeist ‹ ‹ eKnoweKnow

  2. Do a quick google search of shane suman before you come to any conclusions. He was indicted by the SEC and ontario exchange commission for insider trading. My guess is he’s suing the town of windermere to try to pay some of the over 4 million he owes, back.

  3. Urban Deer…. Rural Humans. Having our four legged friends hanging around the neighbourhood is something we take for granted, and when they’re no longer there people will also complain about that . “Hey we had an agressive deer or two, lets cull them.” Putting this into perspective, do we cull all of those East Kootenay residents who opt out of installing winter tires on there vehicles during the snowy season, therefore making them a higher risk on the roads? What if a child jumps out? what if a dog is on the road? what if there’s an accident just over the crest of that hill that you will go sliding into? Quite frankly this happens exponentially more frequently than a deer getting out of hand. Urban Deer…. a non-issue!!!! Start looking at “safety” concerns that are actaully a problem. And if you can’t stand the deer/wilderness being right at your front door, then make the move to a city as this is what makes living in the kootenays desirable and uncomparable.

  4. As a resident of Invermere, I am for the one-time cull. This is no longer about saving shubbery and precious tulips as some might “assume”. This is about deer no longer acting like the wild animals they are. We have built a fence around our back yard to keep our small child and dog from running out onto the road. The deer have since broken down the fence and have charged our 6lb chihuahua. What if that was our 3yr old boy? The deer knock over garbage cans on garbage day and eat whatever is in there, including dirty diapers! They come into the garage looking for food. They climb up the front porch stairs looking for food. We currently have a doe and a fawn, each with a broken leg, still hobbling around with our neighbourhood herd searching for food. Had those two been in the bush, the “circle of life” would have taken over and they would be food for a cougar, wolf, etc.

    The cull is only one step in the management of urban deer. We as residents have to be more villigent about not providing food for the animals. Relocating the deer has also been a discussion, as long as the urban deer are not at risk of infecting the already present wild herds.

    Having family as long time residents here, they have shared their amazement at how many more deer there seem to be and how the deer have no fear of us. We happily watch our herd come through the neighbourhood and graze, but when their habits and behavior are no longer that of the wild animals that they are, it is time to intervine.

  5. Stop Blaming Deer for Human Mistakes!

    In addition to the seasonal government hunting licenses to kill deer, there is this new government plan to kill “urban deer”. There will be at least 225 more deer targeted. BC “wildlife management plans” continue to create imbalances of wildlife populations. Human overpopulation, urban sprawl, destruction of wildlife habitats and other contributing factors to human/wildlife conflicts must all be taken into consideration when developing policies for human, animal and environmental protection.

    See the Lifeforce Facebook Boycott BC Deer Kills:
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Boycott-BC-Deer-Kills/273730359348586?sk=wall

    Lifeforce is calling for a worldwide boycott of BC cities that refuse to use humane non-lethal methods and kill “urban” deer!

    Please Sign these Petitions :
    NEW!!! Stop Penticton Deer Kill Plan
    http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/stop-penticton-bc-deer-kill/
    Stop Kimberley Deer Kill Plan
    http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/stop-kimberley-deer-kill-plan/
    Stop Invermere Deer Kill Plan
    http://www.thepetitionsite.com/2/stop-the-invermere-deer-kill-plan/
    Stop Grand Forks Deer Kill Plan
    http://www.thepetitionsite.com/2/stop-the-grand-forks-deer-kill-plan/

    Lifeforce’s Worldwide Petition to Stop the Killing of 225 deer was signed by 1000 people from Dec 7th to Dec 12th
    http://www.thepetitionsite.com/78/stop-the-kill-of-225-deer/

  6. The whole issue shows the hypocrisy and the dishonesty of those in power in the municipal governments. The decision to kill the deers was probably taken behind closed doors by a few influential and powerful individuals and a fear mongering campaigne was started to create an issue out of a non-issue. it is intersting that deers were not an issue until the big money developers who were interested in expanding the communities and wanted to take lands that were natural habitat of the deers to make money. Eliminating the wildlife just serves their interest and removes a potential barrier for their big plans. They were able to appeal to the ignorance of a few loud but simple minded individuals who are incapable of deeper thinking around this issue. Those people were convinced that protecting their precious tulips, shrubberies and trees are worth taking the lives of wild deers who are just trying to survive and have been here since long before these humans came here with their artificial and foreign tulips and shrubberies. A propaganda campaigne was started to villanize the deers. Exaggerated and sometimes outright fake reports of “aggressive” deers were circulated. Loose dog without a leash was released near a deer who just gave birth and someone was ready with a video camera to capture the aftermath. The recorded video was then released to the national media for widespread circulation. Myths were created using extremely rare cases of deers spreading diseases to humans and deers attracting cougars who would come to the community and then change their mind and decide to eat a human instead of a deer.
    As a side show to legitimize their plan, the so called ‘deer committees” were formed and these committees were then stacked with all pro-cull individuals. These deer committee members were all part of the same clique or in close co-ordination with them. The result was not surprising – the report from these committees were all pro killing. The shocking similarities of the reports in all the varied communities makes us wonder – were they all being written by the same people or came from the same sources? Although the report suggests a few different methods to resolve the “deer problem” – it was very obvious that the main goal was to just kill the deers and other non-lethal suggestions were just to give the report some sense of balance with no real intention of implementing them. Even if we take the deer committees report at face value, how is it that we jump into the killing solution as the first step before trying any other non-lethal solution? Why is it that the province and municipalities have no money for any relocation or other non-lethal solutions but are ready to spend tax payers dollars at the first chance of killing these deers through private contarctors – some of whom were heading the deer committees.
    Councillor Spring Hawes of Invermere says that the only reason she voted for the deer killign plan was because the deer committee recommended this. Let me ask her – where in the report does the committee say that it should be the first step? Shouldn’t she ask what else was done so far from the committees suggestions before resorting to cruel and inhumane mass slaughter of native wildlife? Why is it that out of all the recommendations from the deer committees report, the only one that the municipalities jumped onto with great enthusiasm was to kill the deers and had taxpayers money ready and available for the killing contractors who were also deer committee members?
    The mayors and the councillors are either part of the same clique or completely influenced by them. They can try all they want to justify their actions – but people with common sense can see through them. We can see through their fake care for the deers and environment and the dishonesty surrounding this issue. Rubber stamping identical reports and identical solutions all over does not speak well of them and of their integrity. The powers that be who control these so called elected individuals may be smiling today – but we will keep in mind your dishonesty or at the very best, your cowardice and your caving into the pressure of this deer killing lobby. You cannot justify your actions by showing excuses. If you truly have the courage and the backbone and the independence, then stand up and speak your mind and speak for the silent majority of your constituents – and not the interest of the powerful deer killing lobby.

    • Thank you Shane for writing this.
      I can only add that sometimes things happen like a dog attacking a deer or vice versa. There are Cranbrook residents that have shot a person; that have driven into my 80 year old patient crossing the road, ……. do we therefor have to assume there are too many Cranbrook drivers or too many old people??

      Accidents happen. Bad things happen. A cull may only show our incompetence of coping.

      For the “tourist business” people: a deer cull will for sure keep the tourists in Banff and Canmore and far away from Cranbrook BC.

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