An East Kootenay conundrum
By Ian Cobb
It can be a complex thing being an East Kootenay resident.
We are people of the country – the backcountry – a society intricately blended, for the most part, with the glorious mountains we live among.
We are people who value wildlife – both the hunter and non-hunter. We are a people who value the environment and are generally pretty savvy when it comes to living responsibly and respectfully.
Most East Kootenay residents (not born here) were drawn to the region for its jaw-dropping scenic beauty, small town charms and ways and vast volumes of accessible wilderness in which we pursue a wide range of recreational activities.
But don’t think for a second that living in the back woods, comparatively to big cities, doesn’t have its challenges.
I was presented a wildly genuine East Kootenay conundrum this morning by my wife, Carrie.
Cradling three ugly apples, she said, “Feed these to that deer, if you see it.”
I nodded in the affirmative. And thought myself a fool.
Not three months ago I was contemplating all manner of savage tidings on the whitetail deer that at times congregate in mass in our Gold Creek yard, eating every lovely shrub and plant not protected by eight feet of fencing to the ground.
I have spent the past three summers unsuccessfully trying to ‘deter’ the deer from finding peace in our yard. Shouting, clapping and hurling obscenities does nothing more than capture their curiosity. “Might there be food coming from this strange behavior?” They ponder in their hungry ungulate minds.
Tossing objects at them is futile (I can’t bring myself to lob large objects that would hurt them). Chucking a small rock at a deer might cause some wither shivering but it won’t chase it away. Our two dogs, Ozzy and Asker (also known as Tube Sausage), combined might weigh 10 pounds and are both elderly, so their barking merely annoys the deer, who saunter toward them, ears pricked forward, with the likely thought: “I’m gonna stomp you into the mud yappy!”
So I run at them shouting and waving my hands or a hockey stick and that usually sends them scampering. But they come back, over and over and over again and eat everything we don’t want them to eat. I’d bet there were 20 or more occasions last summer where we’d wake up or return home to find fresh plant slaughter thanks to the roughly eight deer that make our yard part of their daily munch tour.
I am not lying when I say there have been mornings when I’ve looked out across the back yard at the mama deer and her two pudgy offspring who call our yard home and contemplated Bambicide.
The grand schemes Carrie and I have hatched to find ways to save our gardens border on the surreal. After wandering through a Halloween store in Lethbridge I seized on the idea of purchasing some footpad initiated animatronic decorations. “Lay out about 30 sensor pads around the approach to a garden and have a few moaning zombies with red eyes and a large three-headed wolf thing, also with red eyes and a terrible howl and scare the shit out of the deer! Yeah, that’s the ticket!”
Thankfully Carrie talked me out of that idea because we would have spent $1,000 on crazy Halloween decorations and the deer would be frightened the first time they set it off but never again.
The audacity of some of the deer boggles my mind. Short of having a large dog or two to prowl the property, the presence of deer is simply part of life in the East Kootenay. We all deal with it.
And I am now wondering if there are others out there who are as conflicted as we are right now.
Back to the apples and feeding a deer. The notion of it would give me apoplexy in the summer.
Yet I am thinking about feeding it. It’s not because it is -24 C this morning and food is scarce. It’s because this deer has a broken leg – its hind right leg.
We had a young buck with a busted leg (same one) wandering around about three weeks ago. We called the BC Conservation Officer Service and they checked it out. And until yesterday we thought it had been ‘checked out.’ Now there is another deer or perhaps the same young buck after shedding its antlers, limping through the yard.
The sight, especially on such a cruelly cold day, of it walking through deep snow, its back leg dangling and dragging, is heartbreaking.
We called the COs again and haven’t seen it since we called and are hoping it has been humanely dealt with. Otherwise, I might have to toss three crummy apples at this deer if it comes back. And I know that is wrong but it also seems right.
The healthy deer; they can shag off. They’re all hungry for sure but have thick coats and, judging from the vast volumes of green and brown they snarfed from our gardens this summer, have enough fat stored up to make it through what is probably the last cold snap of the winter.
As for three-legs (pictured above) – we’re keeping our eyes open for it and hoping nature does its thing, or else I am going to do something I will regret. But won’t. Arghhhh!