Cranbrook deer cull up in the air

Council considering whether to proceed with a second cull as Invermere court battle continues

Cranbrook urban deer: Up close and personal.

Cranbrook may not carry out its planned second urban deer cull this winter.

Mayor Wayne Stetski said Monday that council “needs to consider how we proceed” as the District of Invermere gets ready to face court over the deer cull it performed earlier this year.

Last November, Cranbrook culled 25 urban deer — 11 white-tail and 14 mule — using clover traps.

It was the first of three East Kootenay communities to carry out a cull with a license from the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

Kimberley culled 100 deer in January, and Invermere was set to cull 100 deer in February before a court injunction put a hold on the plans.

The Invermere Deer Protection Society started a civil suit against the District of Invermere in February, claiming the district did not do enough public consultation prior to deciding to carry out a cull.

The court injunction halted the cull for much of February, but the society’s request to extend the injuction failed and eventually Invermere was able to cull just 19 deer before its permit to euthanize 100 deer expired.

Then in May, the Supreme Court of B.C. gave permission for the society’s civil suit against the district to continue. That case is still before the court, and it has legal implications for Cranbrook and Kimberley, according to Cranbrook Mayor Wayne Stetski.

“(Invermere) has been taken to court over the public involvement process that was used by council to make the decision to cull 100 deer in Invermere’s case,” Stetski said. “That process that Invermere used is the same one that all of us used — in Cranbrook, Kimberley and Invermere. So if the court decides there was something inappropriate or perhaps incomplete on that public process, potentially it would impact the future around public processes leading up to whatever decisions councils make.”

In April, Cranbrook council voted five to two in favour of carrying out a second cull this winter of up to 50 deer. The decision followed a March motion that council would support relocation of urban deer if another party was prepared to pay the difference in the project’s cost. Both of those decisions still stand, Stetski said, although no group has expressed interest in a transplant.

“If that is going to change – and potentially there are some reasons that may encourage council to change – we still would have to do that in a formal way.”

The last count of Cranbrook’s urban deer was carried out on the morning of March 31, 2012, and recorded 121 deer within city limits – 74 mule and 47 white-tail. The average deer population density was 4.81 per square kilometre.

Mayor Stetski said the elected officials from several B.C. communities met with Terry Lake, Minister of Environment, last week at the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.

Mayors of Cranbrook, Kimberley, Invermere, Grand Forks and Penticton asked the minister to provide clear direction about what steps municipalities could take to deal with urban deer problems.

“The province owns all the wildlife,” Stetski explained. “You need to get approval or permits to do anything with wildlife. So what we are saying to the province is: these are your deer. You need to make it very clear to municipalities what our options are, if any.”

The mayors also asked the ministry to carry out research on transplants of urban deer, and for funding to help municipalities deal with urban deer.

“Basically they said there is no money for funding. That part of the answer came back fairly quickly,” said Stetski.