A Cranbrook group opposed to the urban deer cull has united with similar groups in other B.C. communities to stand against lethal methods of deer control.
Based in Cranbrook, the grassroots group Humane Treatment of Urban Wildlife (HTUW) formed in January 2012, but last month it united with three like-minded groups to form the British Columbia Deer Protection Coalition.
HTUW, DeerSafe Victoria, the Invermere Deer Protection Society and Animal Alliance of Canada have come together to educate the public about non-lethal methods of deer management, said Colleen Bailey, chair of HTUW.
“We know this is a huge issue in many communities, so rather than trying to piecemeal each community with education and information, we decided to conglomerate our efforts so we would have more resources at our disposal,” said Bailey.
“We want to be a resource, not only for individuals and private citizens but for municipalities and elected officials to be able to access some ideas.”
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.
Now, the coalition is working with wildlife biologists to collate research on deer management methods, she went on.
“What we try to do is remove the emotion out of the topic. This is such a highly volatile situation for all of our communities. We don’t want to divide the communities; we want to unite the communities.
“We have been accused of being the emotional ones and coming from an emotional perspective, but in reality we are coming from science. It’s the people going, ‘Somebody’s going to get killed,’ that are coming from an emotional base. We are saying let’s do something to prevent that through scientific research, education and understanding.”
In the coalition’s view, culling is not effective because last year’s deer cull in Cranbrook did not reduce the overall numbers of urban deer in town.
“The Coalition doesn’t see the purpose in spending tax dollars on something we know will have to be a continual effort to maintain the numbers. Culling isn’t a one-time option if they choose that method so taxpayers can count on having their tax dollars spent on this lethal method every year,” said Bailey.
Indiscriminate culling does not help with public safety, according to Bailey, because it does not target problem deer.
“The deer are not euthanized. It is a completely different term and it’s misrepresenting to the public what they are doing. People think they are being put to sleep like they are pets. We need to call it what it is and say the deer are being killed,” said Bailey.
“Given that it’s not effective in improving public safety, it doesn’t seem right.”
The coalition would rather non-lethal methods are used to reduce urban deer conflict. She mentioned “hazing” or “averse conditioning” where herding dogs are used to direct deer out of problematic areas such as schools. But she said that education and policy are the most important steps. For instance, homes on the edge of town could be prohibited from planting cedar trees. And urban residents need to have respect for deer, Bailey said.
“We want to make sure people understand deer behaviour. We don’t want people to think, they want to be our friend, or they are out to get us. We want them to go, okay, they are a wild animal, they need to be respected as such. Keep your distance, pick up your fruit, if you must plant a cedar tree wrap it in wire.”
Cranbrook residents need to learn to live with deer, she went on.
“The public thinks that if they do a deer cull, the deer will be gone. We live in a Rocky Mountain community – there will always be deer. We need to learn to coexist with them,” said Bailey.
HTUW is pleased that the City of Cranbrook is delaying its second cull until a lawsuit between the District of Invermere and the Invermere Deer Protection Societ is resolved.
“The coalition is extremely pleased because it is going to give us time to work with them on other solutions if they are willing to work with the coalition,” said Bailey, who is also a citizen member of the Cranbrook Urban Deer Committee consulting the City on the deer cull.
Bailey was unable to provide precise membership numbers for HTUW before press time.