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City to lobby provincial government for urban deer population management

Wildlife biologists pen letter to council raising concerns over Chronic Wasting Disease in urban deer
The City of Cranbrook will be lobbying the provincial government to manage the town’s urban deer population. Barry Coulter photo.

Cranbrook city council will be lobbying the provincial government to step in and manage the city’s urban deer population amid concerns over the spread of an animal disease that has been detected in northwest areas of the U.S.

Wildlife officials penned a letter to council expressing concerns over the potential spread of Chronic Wasting Disease in local deer, a disease specific to ungulates — such as mule and whitetail deer, elk, moose and caribou — that affects the animal’s neurology and results in emaciation, abnormal behaviour, loss of bodily functions and death.

Chronic Wasting Disease is caused by a prion that can survive in the environment for many years and be transmitted through saliva, urine, feces, carcasses and even plants and soil. There is no direct evidence that the disease can be transmitted to humans and there have been no cases of it in humans.

A cluster of cases were identified last year in an urban deer herd in Libby, Montana, according to the same letter, which was signed by a wildlife biologist, a wildlife veterinarian and a public health veterinarian with the BC Centre for Disease Control.

The letter recommends reducing the density of urban deer in the centre of Cranbrook by ‘lethal removal.’

For the last few years, council has maintained that managing the urban deer population is the responsibility of the province and not individual municipalities.

“With Chronic Wasting [Disease], we can really put it to the province,” said Coun. Wes Graham, during a council meeting on Monday night. “I am not interested in going through any kind of a cull procedure, going through any kind of a thing like that to deal with these deer of the province. It’s time to say, ‘Well, if you’re worried about Chronic Wasting [Disease], then come in and manage your deer.’

“This is not our problem.”

The City of Cranbrook has conducted a number of culls over the last decade to manage the urban deer population, however, results have varied, while other factors, such as clover trap vandalism, have hampered those efforts.

Over that time, the City has spent over $100,000 to remove 150 deer, according to a city report.

“Staff is of the opinion that the City is no longer in a position to be able to safely manage the urban deer population,” reads the report. In addition, administration will no longer recommend the use of clover traps, due to high operational costs with minimal impact in removing deer where there are a high number of aggression complaints.

The city has not, and will not, be applying for a wildlife permit for the fall or winter months, according to staff.

Urban deer culls have been a polarizing issue over the years, as protesters have demonstrated outside city hall numerous times, favouring increased public education and non-lethal methods such as translocation.

Over that same time, city council has maintained that culls are necessary for public safety, in response to aggressive deer complaints.

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Trevor Crawley

About the Author: Trevor Crawley

Trevor Crawley has been a reporter with the Cranbrook Townsman and Black Press in various roles since 2011.
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