Cautiously optimistic is the phrase that could be used for the East Kootenay Deer Translocation Study this far, says Ian Adams of Vast Resources.
Vast Resources are conducting the field work and overseeing the project along with partners from the cities of Kimberley, Cranbrook, Elkford and Invermere, the Columbia Basin Trust and Animal Alliance of Canada.
“So far it’s been fairly good,” said Adams, who has been tracking the collared mule deer.
“We are getting mixed results. Some deer are not moving very much, others a fair bit and some are continuing to move.”
29 collared deer from Kimberley and Cranbrook were released in the south country in February.
Two of them have been spotted near Baynes Lake.
“Two collared does have appeared at Baynes Lake which is about 20 kilometres from where they were released,” said Liz White from Animal Alliance. “There have been a few complaints from some folks in the area but many more in support of leaving them alone. The area is very rural and is situated in close proximity with heavily forested surrounding areas. There are approximately 160 residences but a number of those are seasonal.
“We have had people out observing the deer over the last few days and they are behaving just like the non-collared mule deer who live in the community — sometimes they are closer to the residences and sometimes they are in the bush. I guess we will see how things unfold.”
Adams says the two spotted in Baynes Lake are the first of the collared deer to be seen anywhere near a town, and noted as White did that Baynes Lake is quite rural.
“We have had occasional reports from land owners who have seen collared deer, but not all collared deer are part of this particular study.
“We had no expectation of what would happen. We haven’t seen high predation rates and none have returned to their home community.”
Adams says there have been four mortalities from the 29 deer released with collars.
“It’s hard to say whether that is good or bad, though those numbers are probably lower than what we could have expected.
“All were predator deaths we think. There were two cougar kills for sure, one that was probably a wolf and a fourth that could be a cougar or could be road kill.”
That particular animal’s collar was found near Newgate Road, Adams said. It could have been hit by a car though there were no reports of a vehicle incident.
On the other hand, it was close to where the other two cougar mortalities were.
“But there have been no deaths that could be called stress related,” Adams said. “There was a lot of question as to how they would do. Capture related deaths due to stress can show up a couple of weeks after an animal is handled.
“We are cautiously optimistic. There are a lot of factors in a study like this and it’s too early to use the word ‘success’. We need to see how they do. There are other variables to consider before we see if this is a potential management option.
“But initial information indicates they are doing fairly well.”