Vandalism and theft disrupting deer cull: city
Vandalism and theft of City of Cranbrook and provincially-owned equipment has significantly impacted the deer population management activities (cull) since operations began in December 2019, council heard in a city administration update last night (Feb. 10).
“At this point we are limping along with three traps out of 10 we had available to us. We’re having minimal success,” said city communications director Chris Zettel, reading a city administration report.
The following is the report to council.
“Seven out of 10 clover traps available from the province have been damaged enough to make them unusable since operations began on December 5, 2019. Only six deer have been captured and euthanized (three mule deer, three white-tail deer) to date out of a possible 70 allowed to be removed in the wildlife permit.
“The city purchased 10 game cameras and memory cards to be installed with each clover trap in order to collect information to assist in investigations should trap vandalism occur as in previous years. Although some images were captured, a total of six of the city-owned cameras were subsequently stolen, while another two cameras had memory cards stolen, the city report continued.
RCMP are investigating.
“Traps have been appropriately located in high deer traffic areas of the city with high numbers of aggression-related complaints reported. Both the contractor and staff believe that efforts by individuals outside of the organization are taking deliberate steps to release captured deer or otherwise dissuade deer from entering properties where traps are located,” the report explained.
On December 11, 2019, the first act of vandalism was reported with two traps having netting slashed. Game cameras at that location were provided to the RCMP as evidence and an investigation began.
On December 12, the city’s contractor arrived at a trap location to discover a deceased mule deer buck in a collapsed clover trap. The contractor worked to remove the animal when it was discovered that the netting on the clover trap had been slashed indicating someone had attempted to release the animal and collapsed the trap on the deer.
“This is the first time since deer management began in Cranbrook in 2010 that an incident like this has occurred,” the city report stated.
A serious incident occurred near the end of January in which the city’s contractor reported the deliberate burning of a clover trap, which was located only several feet away from a camping trailer in a private yard.
There was no damage to the property of the resident. RCMP are investigating both incidents. Meantime, information provided to the city through its contractor indicated a higher number of white-tail deer in target areas than previously known.
On January 22, staff made a formal request to the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (MFLNRORD) to amend the Wildlife Permit to allow for the removal of up to 35 mule deer and up to 35 white-tail deer. That request was approved.
The original wildlife permit allowed for the capture of 60 mule deer and 10 white-tail deer.
“Staff will continue to work toward fulfilling the wildlife permit before it expires on March 31. Additionally, an urban deer population count was conducted by city and MFLNRORD staff on February 4. Results are currently being tabulated by Ministry staff,” the city report concluded.
Zettel told council the RCMP “have been very helpful for us in trying to step up patrols and being part of the investigation.”
He also told council that early numbers on the count showed 98 deer, including 69 being mule deer, which is consistent to a previous count. The highest number counted thus far was in November 2016 with 142, with 120 being mule deer.
Calling the cull “a lose-lose situation,” Coun. Wayne Price wondered aloud if the city shouldn’t contact its solicitor “on the liability potential to the city if we completely withdraw from the program. And what liabilities the city would be under by not participating in the program if there was an injury, or worse to a citizen as a result of a deer attack or an attack by predators coming into the community. It’s going to happen. This is getting ridiculous. I appreciate the cause but this is so ineffective it’s embarrassing. I’d like a legal interpretation on what our level of responsibility is and if we don’t have one, I think we get out of it and let nature take its course.,”
Noting “there is no way we are going to get 70 deer in three traps,” Mayor Lee Pratt said he agrees with Coun. Price “but I also would like to know… let’s face it the province is making the rules. I know there is a solution to this. It’s a very easy solution but it doesn’t fall within the province’s rules, so what is our liability if we just go do it? There’s two things we can look at there.”
Coun. John Hudak said the attacks on the traps and private property is “borderline eco-terrorism.”
He also noted the arrival of large numbers of deer in towns corresponded to the establishment of dog control bylaws.
“We need to get something from the province. As was said, the tools they’ve given us… they don’t deal with the problem.”
Coun. Ron Popoff also noted the city has received calls from schools with concerns about urban deer.
Lead image: ‘A Cranbrook encounter’ for a dog walker. e-KNOW file photo