Just last week, the Kimberley Urban Deer Advisory Committee (UDAC) conducted their annual deer count. According to preliminary count data, the deer population has increased by seven deer from last year’s findings, making the total 154.
The City and UDAC have been working with both the Province’s Department of Forest, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) as well as Conservation Officers on a translocation project to remove deer from the community. The province has a program that allows them to match the City’s funding, up to a maximum of $25,000 for the translocation of deer, however FLNO says that Kimberley can only proceed with translocation as a research project, as opposed to an ‘operational’ translocation.
On Monday, Dec. 11, Kimberley City Council voted to provide $20,000 to $25,000 a year to maximize Provincial match funding. The original motion was to budget $50,000 a year, in hopes that a permit would be acquired this winter.
City Chief Administrative Officer, Scott Sommerville said in a report to Council, “after meeting with FLNRO staff last week, it was made clear to Councillor Oakley and myself that the translocation project could only proceed as a translocation research project, not as an ‘operational’ translocation. FLNRO indicated that several more years of research is required before translocation can be considered operational.”
FLNRO will also require that Conservation Officers agree to deal with any translocated deer that end up in neighbouring communities, says the report.
According to the Managing for the Future Document, if the urban deer population is not reduced within Kimberley in some way, the risk of aggressive behaviour towards humans or pets is increased, specifically any number over 125. Conservation Officers will respond in the event of an attack on a person, but the deer must be clearly identifiable. According to preliminary count data, the deer population has increased from 147 in 2016 to 154 in 2017.
“The Provincial Urban Deer Cost-Share Program will match up to $20,000, with a verbal promise of another $5,000 for research purposes. This means that the first $20,000 to $25,000 of City funds will be matched. The potential additional expense of collars to track translocated deer for research purposes will result in less than 100 deer being translocated,” said Sommerville.
The City has agreed to provide the matching funds for the continued research, although some Councillors think that the research portion should have been complete by now.
“I thought the research was done,” said Councillor Nigel Kitto. “If there’s any more research to be done I would like to see the province paying for it.”
Councillor Albert Hoglund agreed, saying the deer are the province’s problem.
“I just think enough is enough and the provincial government has to take ownership of the deer and they have to get rid of them,” said Hoglund. “The deer are a problem, but they are a provincial problem, not ours. They [the province] are the ones who should be paying for it. I appreciate all the work thats been done, but we need to send them a strong message that this is not our issue.”
Councillor Bev Middlebrook says she would rather continue the translocation project, as opposed to culling the deer.
“We’ve already started this process and invested in this,” said Middlebrook. “I think it’s more the way of the future and we can set the precedent for other communities in this situation.”
Councillor Kent Goodwin asked how many deer would be removed at a budget of $25,000, to which Sommerville responded saying the expectation is $500 per deer.
“Im not sure how many we could move for $50,000, which is including matching funds, at the time I wrote this report there were less details around what the research project would entail. I estimate that it will be significantly less than 100 deer that will be translocated,” said Sommerville.
Councillor Darryl Oakley, who has been part of Kimberley’s Urban Deer Advisory Committee for six years, says the whole process has been “frustrating” as there are so many different people and organizations who want to be involved from a research perspective, while the City is simply trying to manage deer populations in a non-lethal way.
“From our perspective, we’re strictly dealing with population. We’re just trying to keep the community safe. To get a permit going, FLNRO doesn’t consider the information they have to be enough data. Specifically with regards to deer showing up in other communities and what they’re going to do about it. FLNRO biologists want to understand how a deer is going to be dealt with if it’s translocated from Kimberley and shows up in another community. They want it clearly articulated before they give us a permit.”
Mayor Don McCormick explained that the Chief Conservation Officer says they are committed to remove any deer that pose a safety risk to the community.
“If there is a public safety concern in any community caused by a deer, the CO will come in and deal with that deer,” said McCormick. “They are prepared to do that now, and also for those deer that are translocated and find themselves back in the community.”
The Mayor added that it’s unreasonable not to expect that a tagged deer won’t find their way into another community, and that the City is struggling with the fact that research is hindering them from dealing with deer populations in a non lethal way.
“We just want the deer removed from the community,” he said. McCormick also says that it will likely cost closer to $800 per deer for translocation, which is similar to what it would cost a contractor in a “lethal scenario”.
Councillor Sandra Roberts added that in a situation where a deer is a safety concern, it is hard to identify that specific deer.
Oakley says that scientists at UBCO are interested in conducting research as well. There is the potential for them to implement a program where they can tag all of the deer in the community with a chip, much like a visa card chip, making them easier to identify.
Oakley says the research team is “ready to go”, however they have yet to find out how many deer will be translocated.