With the recent troubles in Cranbrook over their deer cull with deer traps being vandalized, and with animal rights groups such as Animal Alliance calling for tourism boycotts of communities where culls are taking place, it is clear that other methods for dealing with urban deer must be explored, says Mayor Don McCormick.
McCormick told Council this week that Kimberley’s latest counts last November indicated 98 to 100 deer in town, which has dropped quite a bit from counts before Kimberley’s first cull where 200 deer were counted.
“A lot of it has to do with other measures we have taken in Kimberley, such as bylaws, fencing and signs,” McCormick said. “Those things are all subtle but they help.
“Resistance to culling from those groups who oppose them has become a lot more sophisticated. Our ability to execute deer culls is going to be a lot more limited by groups who don’t want them to happen, as we can see by what happened to Cranbrook’s cull last week.”
That’s why other methods such as translocation must be explored, he says.
“Older studies say translocation doesn’t work, but a couple of newer ones out of New Mexico and Utah have shown positive results.
“We propose a translocation pilot to produce our own science in this region,” McCormick said. “Can mule deer be translocated?”
The study will cost about $100,000.
With four communities — Kimberley, Elkford, Cranbrook and Invermere — now having committed $10,000 towards a study, as well as Animal Alliance pledging $10,000, funding is well on its way.
However, the provincial government has to step up, the mayor says.
“By showing that unanimity from four communities, we will go back to the government now and say ‘we need you to buy the collars’. I believe because we have unanimity, the province will step up.”
Collars to track the translocated deer will cost about $30,000.
McCormick says that once the government agrees to provide funding for the collars, the pilot study should go ahead.
“However, we will still be 18 months to two years out from substantial conclusions.”
If the study provides positive results on translocation, provincial wildlife rules would allow a municipality to take out 100 per cent of the urban herd should they wish. For a cull, a municipality could only take out 30 per cent of animals.
Coun. Darryl Oakley added that there has also been interest shown by a few universities to provide a student for a Masters thesis on the translocation study, which would also provide a bit of federal funding.