Cranbrook city council approved a 50 deer cull that will take place in the next few weeks.
At the Wednesday, Feb. 11 budget meeting, city staff recommended that council not go forward with a late winter cull, recommending instead that council seek a Wildlife Act Permit from Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to go ahead with a fall 2015 cull.
The city’s permit expires March 15, 2015.
Coun. Norma Blissett said she was in favour of going ahead with the cull.
“The previous council had received a permit from the Ministry to cull 50 deer,” Blissett said. “We need to act on that now before the spring fawns are born otherwise we’ve got a bigger problem come fall.”
Coun. Isaac Hockley also supported the alternate motion — to proceed with a cull — but did see some issues.
“Are we even going to catch any deer?” he asked. “With the snowfall leaving us and the grass out there, the deer have a lot to eat. Saying that, we do have this permit. I say we try to get the traps and try for some deer and see how it goes.”
Hockley wanted to add the application for the fall permits to the alternate resolution.
He also hoped to see relocation as an option to pursue for the fall.
Coun. Ron Popoff noted part of staff reasoning for the recommendation to hold off on the cull is, firstly, the lack of availability of the clover traps that are needed to trap the deer. They are currently being utilized by Invermere for a cull.
“Secondly, Mother Nature is not cooperating — we now have green grass and readily available feed,” he said.
The clover traps are baited to lure deer in — that may not be as enticing when there is plenty of food on the ground. The traps are shared between communities in the East Kootenay and owned by the province.
“We need to do our best to try to achieve as much of a cull as possible this season,” Popoff said. “I agree with Coun. Hockley, that if we don’t achieve the goal for these reasons outlined, then try again for next year with the permit.”
Chris Zettel, the city’s Corporate Communications Officer, explained that back in July council applied for the permit following a recommendation from the Urban Deer Management Advisory Committee. The permit was received from the province in October, 2014. At the following council meeting, city staff presented the information on the permit, and that’s where is stalled, with the previous council electing to send the decision forward to the incoming council to deal with after the November 2014 election.
Zettel said there would be minimal cost for contracting time if the cull is not successful.
“If the trapping is successful, at this point I’d assume we’d be looking at about $500 per animal — that includes the processing of the meat and the distribution,” Zettel said, noting that in the past that cost has been $600-$800. In the contract Zettel included in the recommendation, the city would be billed for a minimum of 10 deer.
Mayor Lee Pratt echoed the feelings of the three councillors.
“The public spoke, it was 70 per cent in favour of a cull,” Pratt said. “I think that council owes it to those people to carry on with the cull. Unfortunately, right now, because of the timeframe we’re not going to get 50 animals. but I support moving on with it.”
Pratt was referring to the Urban Deer Survey conducted last year
Pratt agreed they should apply for a permit for fall as well, noting it should be an open-ended permit, like the one Invermere has.
Pratt also noted that Cranbrook is participating with Kimberley on a relocation study, but that still required significant work and funding.
“That study could be five years down the road,” he said. “So I don’t think we should be cancelling our cull.”
Coun. Tom Shypitka was on board with a cull
“I think we should get on with this,” Shypitka said.
Coun. Danielle Cardozo was the only member of council to vote against a cull in the next few weeks.
“If we’re going off the science of it, you’ll also note that anywhere they do culls, the deer numbers increase after,” Cardozo said. She said removing the deer opens up the territory for new deer to take their places. She hoped that council would take to the time to find a longer-term solution to the problem.
Zettel said that the cull in Kimberley two or three years ago of 99 deer was successful in reducing the population.
“They have seen some numbers come back, but not to the numbers of three years ago,” Zettel said.
The motion that council passed allows for a combined limit of 50 mule and white-tail deer. Once the program budget of $12,750 is expended the cull would also stop. The City has until March 15 to conduct the cull — at that point the Wildlife Permit expires.