Cranbrook City Council is caught between a rock and a hard place as far as its urban deer population is concerned.
At Monday night’s meeting, Nov. 20, Council voted to proceed with another cull of the city’s deer herd, but not without some words for the Province of B.C.
A cull permit — always controversial and with questionable effectiveness — is the only recourse to controlling urban deer allowed the City by the Province. And yet, as the mayor and other councillors pointed out, “they are the province’s deer.”
“We’re sitting here, expected to make the tough decisions, “Mayor Lee Pratt said, “but [the deer are the province’s responsibility].”
The City has received a Wildlife Permit from the Ministry of Forest, Land and Natural Resource Operations (MFLNRO), which allows for the capture and euthanization of up to 50 mule deer or incidental white tail deer, to occur between December 1, 2017, and March 15, 2018.
“I’m still concerned with the safety of our citizens.” Mayor Pratt said. “We are subject to criticism, and some abuse, but by a visible minority.
“I’m not entirely in favour of a cull, but we have to do something.”
City of Cranbrook Communications officer Chris Zettel confirmed the cull permit was the only tool allowed the City by the Province. Deer hazing in other communities (herding the deer out of town using trained dogs) and translocation (sedating, radio-collaring and hauling the deer far away) were done as trial projects. “And that relocation success hasn’t been great,” Mayor Pratt added.
Councillors Danielle Eaton and Wesly Graham ended up voting against the cull.
“I feel it’s a program that does not work,” Eaton said. “I really hope we can push for alternative means of deer management.”
Graham echoed her sentiments.
“I feel the province uses their cull permits as a way out. They are the province’s deer it’s not our problem, but we have to deal with it, and deal with the fallout.”
Count. Ron Popoff, one among the others who voted for the cull, said the public expects the municipality to do something to reduce the deer population.
“The only tool in our toolbox is a hammer,” he said. “It may not be the most effective, but it’s the only one we have.”
The vote was five in favour, two opposed.
“I think it’s time that the majority of citizens who are in favour of the cull to put forward letters of support,” Mayor Pratt said. “And get ahold of their MLA … because I’m tired of taking the flack.”
The cost to the City, assuming that 50 deer are captured, would be $27,500 — $550 per animal. This includes all contractor costs, insurance, training, mileage, meat processing and distribution.
The City will also apply to MFLNRO for matching funding for Cranbrook’s population management program, through the provincial Urban Deer Operational Cost-Share program. If this application is successful, the City will be reimbursed $200 per animal, up to a maximum of $10,000 upon the expiry of the wildlife permit.
This will be the sixth such population management Cranbrook has undertaken. Eighty-eight deer have been culled in total since 2011, ranging from a high of 25 in 2011 to a low of four in 2015, when the program ended early due to trap vandalism.
The City of Cranbrook also reported that data collected by the City and the Provincial RAPP line (the hotline used to report wildlife-human interactions where public safety may be at risk) showed that there has been a decline in the number of reported deer incidents in Cranbrook. Last year, there were 35 complaints to the City, 48 complaints to RAPP, and 23 deceased deer picked up. In 2017, as of November 20, there have been 15 complaints to the City, 24 to RAPP, and 54 deceased deer have been collected.
Deer population counts from 2010 through 2016 show the urban herd is up a bit from previous years.
The urban deer population as of November, 2016, was marked at 142 total animals — males, females, juveniles, and both mule deer and white tails (with mule deer in the majority).
• As of November, 2015: 137
• As of December, 2014: 104
• As of November, 2013: 120
• As of March, 2012: 121
• As of November, 2010: 101