Going to the dogs in Kimberley

Province to allow one-day, one-time experiment with aversive conditioning

The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources has informed the City of Kimberley that they have reversed a previous decision and will allow a trial deer hazing.

This will be a one-time only test to determine the response of habituated mule deer to an experienced handler and trained border collies. It will happen quickly, because there is a very short window to attempt to shoo deer out of town before they begin fawning.

The Bulletin has learned that the trial in fact took place this morning, Wednesday, May 29,

“This is really good news,” said Mayor Ron McRae of the Ministry’s letter.

The City had applied for permission to conduct the experiment before but were turned down. Hazing, or aversive conditioning, is not allowed under the BC Wildlife Act.

The Ministry has set some guidelines around the trial, one being that a Ministry staff person be present at the time, and have the authority to call a cease and desist at any time. No deer with new-born fawns may be approached by the handler or dogs.

After the trial, the City must submit a report to the Ministry.

Coun. Darryl Oakley is jubilant at the opportunity to test a non-lethal method of urban deer management.

“This takes the monstrosity that is the BC Wildlife Act and moves it a bit,” Oakley said. “It’s just a bit of movement, but it’s important. A lot of other jurisdictions are going to be watching how this goes.”

McRae said that reading between the lines, it was apparent that the Ministry would be pleased if the trial was a success.

“We need to carry it off in as pure a manner as possible,” he said.

That means very few people, aside from Ministry staff and the dog handler will witness the trial. It will be documented however, to be included in the report.

Oakley acknowledges that a one-day trial is not much, but he believes it will have positive results in terms of how the provincial government views aversive conditioning.

“We have to go through the trial so the Ministry can watch the accuracy of the dog handler. I have full confidence in the process.”

“If we can demonstrate what hazing is, it’s a huge success,” said Coun. Don McCormick. “It’s not a stampede of deer down the street, chased by dogs.”

McCormick added that the onus was on the City of Kimberley to make the most of the one-time trial.

Coun. Bev Middlebrook said she was delighted to have the trial approved. “I am proud to see Kimberley taking this route.”