Using clover traps to cull deer is not an effective way to solve Cranbrook’s problems with urban wildlife, according to a national environmental group.
City council on Monday, November 5 heard a presentation by Liz White, director of Animal Alliance of Canada, and Barry MacKay, the Canadian representative of Born Free U.S.A. who travelled to Cranbrook from Toronto to ask the city to reconsider its urban deer control methods.
White said that culling deer in clover traps, Cranbrook’s chosen method thus far, is ineffective because it cannot target problem deer, the animals are under stress before they are killed, and more deer will move in to take the place of the deer that have been culled.
Last November, Cranbrook culled 25 urban deer – 11 white-tail and 14 mule – using clover traps.
It was the first of three East Kootenay communities to carry out a cull with a license from the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
Cranbrook was preparing to cull another 50 deer this winter, but the plan has been placed on hold while legal action against the District of Invermere for its cull is resolved.
But White suggested to council that “indiscriminate killing” of deer fails to solve complaints of aggressive deer.
“Setting clover traps does not necessarily get the deer you want. That’s the issue. You are not going to solve the problem by setting clover traps because you may not get the animal you think hurt that child,” for example, said White.
She said that a study found deer in clover traps suffer stress.
“Trapped deer experience greater stress as a result of confinement, which causes more severe physiological perturbations, and calls into question the use of (the word) humane in the use of clover traps,” said White.
What’s more, she added, because we live in the Rocky Mountains, more deer will move in to take the place of those that have been culled.
“You are not going to solve your problem because you live in a wilderness area where there are lots of deer. Deer are in town because there is food and water and shelter. They are here for a reason,” said White.
The Animal Alliance of Canada recommends the city seek provincial permits to try “hazing” the deer, where herding dogs move the deer out of town, or sterilization. Public education is also key, White said.
“Such programs would also educate residents about deer behaviour and provide tools to resolve conflict. The program might even include a conflict resolution hotline as part of the education and outreach program.”
Councillor Angus Davis asked White and Barry MacKay what council is expected to say to a mother whose child is attacked by a deer in a hypothetical scenario.
“I would tell her to take the child to the hospital,” said MacKay. “I can’t categorically say there is no risk to your child, but I can say statistically it is so very remote.”
Davis responded: “That’s not a very good answer.”
“You don’t think the child should be taken to the hospital?” said MacKay.
“That’s so crude,” said Councillor Davis.
Mayor Wayne Stetski explained to the pair that B.C. municipalities experiencing urban deer conflicts have asked the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to provide clear direction on what they can and cannot do to address the deer problem.
Stetski said that the report from the Animal Alliance of Canada will be presented to the city’s urban deer management committee, and forwarded to the ministry.