Several translocated deer, complete with radio collars, have made their way to Cranbrook from their release point north of Canal Flats. (Stewart Wilson)

City of Kimberley seeking permit to translocate deer from provincial ministries

Dealing with urban deer is a multi-faceted, complex issue

The City of Kimberley is doing everything it can to deal with problems related to urban deer, says City Councillor Darryl Oakley, who has been Council representative to the Urban Deer Committee for the past six years.

But it’s a complicated, lengthy process, dealing with two provincial ministries, public complaints, responsibility to taxpayers, and new hurdles to jump every step of the way.

The first thing to remember, says Oakley, is that deer are the responsibility of the province, despite residing in various communities, and that any step to deal with them in any way requires provincial permission.

One of the things the City of Kimberley did this past winter was to pass a council resolution to apply for permission from the province to translocate up to 50 mule deer this coming winter.

The current study around translocation of mule deer is not yet final, although preliminary results indicate that translocating the mule deer out of urban areas doesn’t seem to be causing stress to the animals, which was a major concern.

Even with the final study results not yet published, Council decided to go ahead and apply for a translation permit.

Those involved with the study have been watching movement of the translocated deer and obviously some have been behaving as normal mule deer, moving between high and low country according to seasons, Oakley said. But then there have been some who have come back to communities, such as the tagged deer who showed up in Cranbrook last week. Those deer originated in Kimberley and were released in winter range near Canal Flats.

“Who knows what the deer are thinking,” he said. “They just went back to the first urban area they happened to hit, which happened to be Cranbrook.

“The bottom line is, if we are going to move deer out to winter range, we have to have a process to deal with animals who come back.”

If deer do come back, Oakley says the likely method to deal with them is to euthanize them, as they are completely habituated to urban areas. And the best way to handle that is to form a working partnership with the Conservation Officers service.

The request to work with COs to deal with returning animals is working up the chain of command to Victoria at present, Oakley says.

It is not the mandate of the Conservation Officer service to come into a community and take out 50 animals, Oakley continued. It is however, in their mandate to deal with animals who are a public safety issue. And that’s why, any time you have a contact with an urban deer, you should call the provincial RAPP line at 877-952-7277.

“We have to know where the problems are, we need the data,” Oakley said. “If there is an incident, you need to call the RAPP line immediately.

“Deer are provincial property. Every single move we make we must have the province’s permission.”

Getting a permit to translocate rather than cull is not just to avoid problems with animal rights groups, or avoid objection from citizens. It’s also turning out to be a far cheaper, and effective, way to deal with deer.

“The trouble with culls is that if you look at the numbers they are getting in recent culls, like Cranbrook and Invermere, they are not doing very well. Culling isn’t getting the results, probably because they are not able to place traps where they really want. It’s not proving effective. And translocation is cheaper by quite a bit.

“We are really hoping we can get a translocation process set up. It’s just how to get all the bits and pieces together to make it work. If we get permission to translocate, and get a working agreement with the CO Service, we’ll still need permission to go into people’s yards to tranquilize deer. We are not sure how to get there yet, but we are working on it.

“And Council has to approve a budget for all of this.”

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