A study on the translocation of mule deer in the East Kootenay is set to get underway in Cranbrook, Kimberley, Elkford and Invermere in mid-February.
In advance of that Kimberley City Council amended its deer feeding bylaw this week to allow for deer to be baited with food so they can be tranquilized and moved.
The window for the study is from mid-February to mid-March. What residents of any of the communities where the study is being carried out can do, says Kimberley City Councillor Darryl Oakley, is stay away if you happen to see the trapping and tranquilizing happening. Oakley, who is the council representative on Kimberley’s Urban Deer Committee, says the whole idea is to make the translocation happen with as little stress to the animals as possible.
“It’s really important that people realize that this is a full on scientific project,” Oakley said. “There will be biologists from Vast Resource, Ministry biologists and veterinarians. To keep this project going people need to make sure when they see them doing their work, leave them alone. The less people around the better, to minimize stress.”
The deer will be trapped using clover traps, but a smaller, lighter trap than was used in any of the controversial culls. These traps squeeze in from the side, which will immobilize the animal and allow the vet to administer the tranquilizer.
“They will move does and fawns together,” Oakley said. “But if you catch a doe in a trap, it’s likely that the fawn will be around too. Animals not caught in traps will be darted so we can keep family units together.”
The study will pick areas of each community where there is a large enough space to allow for darting and to give the animals room to roam around until the tranquilizer takes effect.
The deer will then be fitted with radio collars and moved out of town in a horse trailer with straw bedding. Locations to let the deer go have already been chosen but are not being disclosed.
Oakley says that the collars will send out a signal once every twelve hours. If the animal is not heard from in 24 hours, they will be checked.
“There are animals out there already collared — a control group,” Oakley said. “We want to know — if an animal is taken by a predator, are there control group animals being taken as well, or have the animals being transported lost their prey instinct?”
This is an extended process and there will be no answers overnight as to whether translocation is a tool that might be used in control of urban deer.
“We do ask people to respect how it all unfolds. This is a study, not an attempt to reduce numbers. We want to see if it will work. We will need patience. It will be a year after translocations before we know if it worked.”