Groups urge government to reverse Kimberley decision

Decision to deny Kimberley hazing experiment ‘political, shocking’ coalition says

While the Humane Treatment of Urban Wildlife group and the BC Deer Protection Coalition have not applauded every move made by Kimberley City Council in its efforts to manage the urban deer population, they are very much in favour of Kimberley’s plan to attempt an experiment in deer hazing.

Representatives for both groups are responding very strongly to the denial of Kimberley’s request for a permit to do an experimental aversive conditioning trial for a period of 48 hours.

Calling the reasons given for denial — that hazing would not be allowed under the Permit Regulations ­— ‘an excuse’, spokespersons for the groups are calling on the provincial government to reverse their decision before the coming election.

“This is very disappointing” said Sherry Shrieves-Adams resident of Kimberley, Co-Chair, Humane Treatment of Urban Wildlife and spokesperson for the BC Deer Protection Coalition. “The whole idea of hazing is to change deer behaviour by moving them out of town and making it uncomfortable to stay in town.  It is a viable alternative to culling. The current government downloads the responsibility for managing deer to our community and then ties our hands when we want to try approaches that have worked elsewhere.”

The Humane Treatment of Urban Wildlife Committee has spoken to Kimberley Council many times, and to other East Kootenay Councils as well, requesting that they look into non-lethal methods of population control.

Shrieves-Adams also sits as a community representative on the Kimberley Urban Deer Committee.

Colleen Bailey, from Cranbrook, Chair, Humane Treatment of Urban Wildlife and spokesperson for the BCDPC, who has been in the forefront organizing against culls in many East Kootenay communities, finds it frustrating that the government continues to approve culls while denying non-lethal methods.

“The BC Liberal government rewards our Council (Cranbrook) with a kill permit when all Cranbrook has really done is kill deer,” said Bailey.  “Kimberley Council is leading other municipalities in implementing a comprehensive human/deer conflict prevention program and yet the Liberals punish Kimberley by denying the hazing permit.  Ministers Thompson and Lake should take note that the urban deer killing game has become intensely political and divisive and that there are consequences for their decision.”

“The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations denied the permit because of the Wildlife Act’s Permit Regulations,” said Liz White, Leader of Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada and a spokesperson for the BCDPC. White, from Toronto, travelled to Kimberley and spoke to Council this past winter. “We strongly disagree.  We believe that the permit was denied for political reasons and because the Ministers failed in their due diligence to find out how hazing is actually done.  Both the Act and the Regulations allow the Liberal government to issue a permit to the City of Kimberley for the purpose of hazing deer. Ministers Steve Thompson and Terry Lake should intervene before the election writ is dropped and issue the permit immediately.  This issue will not go away during the election.”

White says it is a shocking decision and she feels especially bad for Mayor McRae, Council and the Urban Deer Committee, who she says have been leading the way in dealing with urban deer.

“This is a community that has done a tremendous amount of work on managing deer. I don’t know of any community in British Columbia that has done what Kimberley had done. Lots of communities have established anti-feeding bylaws, but Kimberley is actually enforcing it, and doing the education. They’ve done the ground work and the number of people feeding deer has dropped substantially. They are changing the bylaw for fence height, so people can keep deer out. They are looking at incidental feeding of deer through fruit trees and certain flowers. Signs are going up. They are implementing an incredibly comprehensive program.

“Hazing is a good program. Everybody acknowledges that with clover traps you can have a conflict with an animal but you may not get that animal. So what’s the point? Hazing can target individual animals or groups of animals.

“Here is a city that has really tried to put a whole package together and the province says ‘sorry, you can’t do it’. I think it’s shocking.”

The groups have forwarded the pertinent part of the Wildlife Act, which they say provide a mechanism to allow a hazing permit, to the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operation, the Minister of Environment and Kimberley City Council, but have not heard back.

Mayor Ron McRae indicated last week that the City would be asking the government to look at their decision again. McRae also said that hazing was only part of the overall deer management plan. Culling was still on the table as well, he said.