Cranbrook city council is asking staff to ask the provincial government to issue a wildlife permit eligible for the fall of 2017.
The issue came up at a city council meeting as Councillor Norma Blissett enquired about the success of the translocation trial study that is currently underway under the direction of Vast Resource Solutions.
However, the debate also highlighted that while the translocation study will provide sound scientific data, final results won’t be available for another three or four years.
Mayor Lee Pratt argued that the the city can’t sit by and do nothing while the translocation trial runs its course, and reiterated his support for the urban deer cull.
“First and foremost, when this comes out, I do not want to hear four or five months down the road from Liz White and her group that we did it in secrecy,” Pratt said, “because that’s what happens every year. They say we do it in secrecy.
“Since I’ve been here, it’s never been secret, so that really upsets me.”
Pratt also reaffirmed his position that urban deer culls are a matter of public safety.
“We’ve had some incidents of deer hurting people and I’m really, truly concerned that one day, that incident is going to be a small child or an older person who can’t defend themselves and we’re going to have a fatality,” Pratt said. “This is the reality, and people have to realize that.”
He expressed frustration in how few deer are removed from the cull and said the population is increasing because habituated deer are fawning in the city as other wild deer also wander into town.
“We’re fighting a losing battle there if we don’t get some bigger numbers on the cull,” Pratt said. “These are the deer living in town and rebirthing fawns here, so unless we get rid of some of that, we’re never going to win on it.
“It has to be a large cull to help the problem.”
Councillor Wes Graham suggested that the province needs to take a larger role in managing and dealing with urban deer problems, a sentiment that was echoed by Councillor Tom Shypitka.
Councillor Danielle Cardozo noted that culling is a short-term solution.
“I understand the justification of the cull and why we do it,” Cardozo said. “My only concern is we’re going to keep doing this over and over again. We’re never going to end the deer coming into our community, so what are we going to do about that?”
Early this year, 15 deer — 13 mule deer and two whitetail deer — were trapped and euthanized with a cost of $13,000. Over 800 pounds of meat that was obtained through the cull was donated to the Food Bank and Street Angels.
Last year, the city culled 20 deer — 13 mule deer and seven whitetail deer.
According to the 2016 annual report, the November 2016 urban deer count at 146 is the highest since the city started tracking the deer counts in 2010.
While Pratt talked about public safety, he also noted that conservation officers are also having to kill deer that may be wounded from being struck by vehicle traffic, which was around roughly 40 this year.
“We get a lot of feedback, people against the cull but the reality of it,” Pratt said, “is there are more vehicles killing deer in Cranbrook than the cull. The reality of it, is those vehicles that are hitting the deer are creating a lot of expense on insurance claims.”
The annual report is publicly on the city website and copies will be sent to the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.