Time for B.C. to deal with its urban deer plague
Deer me! I don’t know where to begin on this one and I know I’m attempting the impossible, namely to say something that the good people of Cranbrook can agree on when it comes to urban deer.
So here goes. And as Sgt. Friday said on Dragnet, (Oh, am I dating myself here) “the facts m’am; just the facts.”
Deer are cute, lovable creatures especially as fawns, curled up in a forest glade and being doted on by their loving mothers just like Bambi in Walt Disney’s classic movie, which I’m not ashamed to say made me cry when I saw it back in the 1950s.
When I was a kid, my Dad – bless his departed soul – hunted Bambi and I had very mixed feelings about that. But my mom – bless her departed soul – had a way of cooking venison and I loved it. I even took venison sandwiches to school along with duck sandwiches thanks to my keen-eyed, hunter father. More importantly, I learned a lesson about life: the world isn’t a perfect place. Nature can be a cruel and capricious mother. People eat animals. Animals eat animals. Our aboriginal forefathers wouldn’t have survived without eating animals. Neither would most of us.
Now, I have to chuckle. I said before my dad “Monty” was a hunter and a damn good one and he certainly wasn’t a whiner. But back in the late 1950s and 1960s deer were relatively scarce and dad would often return home from a hunting trip empty-handed and he would curse, and God forbid, whine about the lack of deer in the countryside and rhetorically curse former premier W.A.C. “Wacky” Bennett for the situation. Poor Wacky. I doubt if he ever killed a deer in his life!
Anyway, if the Creator ever smiled on me and brought my dear father back for one day, you know what I’d do? I’d take my dad for a walk in Cranbrook and he could see for himself the chewed-up cypress trees around so many of our homes, the plundered gardens and the devastated flower beds all over town. He would see people walking their pets holding back in well-founded caution when they encounter a doe with fawns. He’d see my lawn covered with deer scat and if he saw, as I’ve seen several times, as many as a dozen deer on my 33-ft. wide lot, I know what he’d do.
My dear old dad, who never encountered a dozen deer in one spot in his life, would faint at the sight of that many Bambis frolicking on a city lot. And who could blame him?
Time for some hard facts. In a 2012 article, Atlantic Magazine reported there are more deer now than ever in history. From a USA low of 300,000 in the 1930s estimates range to more than 300 million today, a thousand-fold increase in less than 100 years and you can bet similar statistics apply in Canada. Fifty years ago, deer were hunted to the point of scarcity, their habitat was reduced by industrial agriculture and many of the plants they survived on were destroyed. But today it’s entirely different. Hunters and predators are far fewer, leafy suburbs and yummy flowers cover the continent and the deer population has exploded. Fairfax Country in Virginia reports 100 deer per square mile. God only knows what it is here!
Let’s cut to the chase. Deer aren’t declining today. They’re thriving and overrunning communities all over the continent including Cranbrook. It’s time to act. Our Mayor lamented this week that the province, which has jurisdiction over deer and wildlife, is not prepared to fully deal with the situation and is leaving cities like Cranbrook twisting in the wind.
The Mayor is correct. So, my respectful suggestion is B.C.’s municipalities should lobby Victoria to amend the Wildlife Act to allow municipal jurisdiction over urban deer and provide funding for whatever method municipalities choose to deal with the deer plague – be it cull, translocation, hazing or whatever. Oak Bay, near Victoria, wants to sterilize its deer herd. Let them do it and Victoria should pay because it’s the province that’s allowed the deer to stray within municipal boundaries.
What Cranbrook does should be up to the people of Cranbrook and again Victoria should pay because of the province’s turpitude in not controlling its wildlife. Why should our fair city be vilified by animal rights activists around the world because the provincial government is not doing its job?
Here’s a chance for Mayor Pratt to do something no other B.C. mayor has done and hold the province’s feet to the fire, including our local MLA, and get them to do something about the vexing Bambi issue that the province has deliberately downloaded on B.C. municipalities.
– Gerry Warner is a retired journalist, who would love to see deer return to their natural habitat and leave us to live in ours.