Members of council vented frustration with the state of the urban deer cull during a meeting on Monday night, following reports that clover traps have been vandalized and city equipment monitoring those traps have been stolen.
Seven out of 10 clover traps have been rendered unusable due to damage, while six game cameras set up to monitor those traps have been stolen, and memory cards from two more cameras were also taken.
Traps are placed on public and private property — with permission of the property owner — in areas where there are high numbers of aggressive deer reports.
Councillor Wayne Price called the cull a ‘lose-lose’ situation, and suggested that the city consult with lawyers to gauge the level of liability to the municipality if someone was injured in an aggressive urban deer incident.
“I’d like a legal interpretation of what our level of responsibility is,” said Price, “and if we don’t have one, I think we just get out of it and let nature take it’s course and sooner or later, something’s going to happen and somebody’s going to be forced to take action.”
Councillor John Hudak agreed, lamenting the damage to the traps and damage to private property, as one clover trap was set on fire near a camper on a private property.
“We need to get something from the province here, because, as has been said, this isn’t working,” Hudak said. “The tools that have been given to us, they don’t deal with the problem and there’s gotta be something else here, because this problem isn’t going to self-correct.”
Some images were captured from incidents of trap vandalism and RCMP are investigating, according to a city staff report.
The city agreed to the cull in October, acquiring a wildlife permit for 70 deer — 60 mule deer and 10 whitetailed deer. Following input from the contractor who noticed an increased whitetailed presence within the city, staff successfully applied to amend the terms of the permit to 35 mule deer and 35 whitetailed deer.
To date, only six deer — three mule and three whitetailed — have been euthanized through the cull.
A count conducted by city and provincial government staff on Feb. 4 revealed 98 urban deer within the city — 69 mule deer and 29 whitetail deer. The highest numbers of deer reported in the city was from four years ago, with 120 mule deer and 22 whitetail deer recorded by the city.
Chris Zettel, Corporate Communications Officer for the City of Cranbrook, told council that the city is actively asking the public to report any aggressive deer incidents in order to compile accurate statistics, and noted that two pets have been killed over the last few years.
“Aggression is a variety of things,” Zettel said. “I would say the most common is people out walking their dogs and having does come out of private yards and chasing them onto sidewalks. We had a couple of incidents over the last few years where a deer has come out and someone has got their dog and the person tries to get in between the deer and the dog and has received some injuries.”
The city recorded 38 cases of aggressive deer complaints in 2019.
Zettel also said that clover traps are deliberately placed in areas where there are a high number of aggressive deer complaints.
“I think it’s key to understand here that when we’re doing the cull, we’re not trying to do a blanket approach,” Zettel said. “What we do is we take all of these aggression complaints that we get through us and the provincial RAPP line and we map them out and we quickly identify some very key hot spots where there’s a lot of problems and that’s where we try to focus.
“We have never, ever tried to completely remove all the animals. All we’re trying to do is reduce the numbers and reduce the chances of aggression in these very key areas.”
The province bears the cost to repair or replace the clover traps, while the stolen game cameras purchased by the city work out to a loss of roughly $500.
The wildlife permit terms are from Dec. 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020. The city will continue the cull efforts with only three traps; the likelihood of getting more are slim, given that the traps are provincial government property and would have to be shipped in from other regions.
For the last few years, council has repeatedly maintained that policies to manage the urban deer populations are the responsibility of the provincial government and that municipalities can only take provincially-approved action.
A small group of people protesting against the cull stood outside city hall with a mock clover trap before Monday’s meeting.