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Elkford gets go ahead to continue with cull
Nicole Obre/Fernie Free Press
Following an investigation and a one week suspension, the permit for Elkford's deer cull has been reinstated. While a date has not yet been set, the District of Elkford is free to resume culling deer anytime up until March 10.
"[The District] has received a warning and will now be under a much more watchful eye around observing the permit conditions," said John Krebs, regional manager, Recreational Fisheries and Wildlife Programs, Kootenay Boundary Region of Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. "We did reinstate the permit on Thursday afternoon (January 16) last week and Elkford is now remobilizing things to get their people and their equipment organized to reinitiate the operational part of the cull."
The District of Elkford initially began the cull at the start of January to decrease the population of 78-148 mule deer currently living within town limits. A license was issued by the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources and Operations, allowing the District to kill up to 50 mule deer with the use of a clover trap and bolt gun. The 14 page permit issued outlined several guidelines and regulations, including that deer only be harvested during the night.
"We suspended the permit on January 7 due to some complaints and concerns that we had with trapping outside of permit conditions, specifically trapping during daylight hours, which is not consistent with the permit," explained Krebs. "We did an investigation with the Conservation Officer Service once we suspended the permit with the parties and followed up with that in Elkford."
He went on to say, "We sat down with the District and the contractor and the Conservation Officers over the whole situation and what the complaints and concerns were. We've made it very clear that we expect that the operation meets the terms of the permit."
With the permit reinstated, the District is cautiously moving forward with the deer cull.
"We are going to work on a game plan," commented Curtis Helgesen, chief administrative officer, District of Elkford. "There has been a few things that have changed since we first started harvesting, so we're working on having that game plan approved by the province and Interior Health, and then completing the cull by no later than March 10."
Feedback from the community has been mixed and the District has been dealing with concerns from outside and environmental groups as well. This is despite the fact that 70 per cent of the 433 Elkford residents who completed a survey about the urban deer issue in 2010 wanted to see a moderate decrease in the herd by 30 to 40 per cent.
"There are some people hopefully that have contacted us that are strongly against it and there are some people who have come forward that want to provide those words of encouragement to council that they support the decision,"said Helgesen. "Locally in Elkford, there are some people that are really impacted by it and there are some people that are still for it, but we just have to keep moving forward."
Krebs is hopeful that the District will be able to continue on with the cull without any further issues.
"We had to reexamine what their procedures were, but it was just about making sure we had confidence that the District and the contractor could follow the terms of the permit," he said. "We've had that assurance and we'll have some staff oversee things as well. So we'll be watching, but I think they've got what they need to do the job properly. Hopefully this is just a bump in the road, they're back on track, and we'll get that work completed in the next few weeks.
The District reported that ten deer were harvested before the cull was initially suspended on January 6 and 7. All were mule deer, two males and the rest female, with a roughly 50/50 mix of adults and juveniles. The meat will be processed into ground meat and provided to local food banks.