Cranbrook council reluctantly approved pursuing an urban deer population management program during a meeting on Monday night at city hall.
According to a staff report, the city received a wildlife permit from the provincial government in early October, which allows for a cull of up to 60 mule deer and 10 white-tail deer for a total of 70 ungulates.
The permit is effective between Dec. 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020.
In a universal sentiment echoed around the table, mayor and council lamented the lack of municipal options for urban deer population management, noting that a cull is the only tool allowed by the province.
“As much as I hate this as our only option for dealing with the deer problem in the city, I’m going to support it,” said Councillor Mike Peabody. “Looking at this, it looks like the amount of issues with aggressive deer is just increasing and this is the only thing we can do — and we have to do something to protect our citizens.”
Under the terms of the wildlife permit, which is issued by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, there are no options for relocation.
“I say this every year, but from my standpoint, we have to do a cull for the safety of our residents,” said Mayor Lee Pratt. “Plain and simple, safety is number one. Secondly, I have to say, this is not our call. It’s our cull, but it’s not our call. The provincial government is the one that is in control of this, and they say it is their deer and they make the rules.”
If the contractor maxes out the wildlife permit, the budget for the cull will be $45,500, which breaks down to $650 per deer, including trap and equipment setup, contractor mileage, and meat processing and distribution costs.
The city has conducted seven culls in years past, removing as many as up to 50 deer, or only three earlier this year in March, due to the late issuance of a wildlife permit. Other cull programs have been interrupted due to clover trap vandalism.
According to a staff report, the city has received 38 complaints of aggressive deer so far this year, an increase from 23 complains in 2018. One of those complaints is a confirmed case of a dog getting killed, while another incident resulted in injuries to a dog and its owner.
Both Councillors Ron Popoff and John Hudak noted their attendance at a wildlife symposium in Cranbrook earlier this year. Popoff said a wildlife expert told him the cull is a ‘joke’ and explained that the presence of urban deer are attracting predators into the municipality.
Popoff lamented the cull option, but noted it was the only option available.
“We’re going to, yet again, get the community all excited about the cull,” Popoff said. “We can see records here of past performance and past aggression-related complaints of humans and dogs from deer and the numbers aren’t improving.
“If anything, they’re getting worse so I guess as the only tool in the toolshed, we have no choice for this, but I would really encourage staff to see if there are other pilot opportunities we could look at as a community, something unique to Cranbrook and deal with that predator perimeter around Cranbrook, if that is the real solution to dealing with this.
“This just causes an annual frustration that we all engage in and I’m tired of it.”
Based on the latest statistics collected in December last year, there are 98 urban deer in Cranbrook, 67 of which are mule deer.
Councillor Wayne Price also raised the possibility of following in Oak Bay’s footsteps on Vancouver Island, which is in the middle of conducting a sterilization study to prevent does from fawning.
“In no way yet is it operational,” said Chris Zettel, the Corporate Communications Officer for the City of Cranbrook. “It’s going to be very much like the relocation [study], do a number of studies and see if it has any impact at all.
“Previous discussions way back in 2011, 2012, the province indicated it wasn’t a viable option because, at that point, they indicated that between 80-90 per cent of the urban deer population needed to be treated each year for three years to have any impact.
“At that point, they weren’t willing to discuss it any further, so the fact that they’re willing to do a study now to try this is promising.”
While council approved the cull, it also approved making an application to a provincial cost-sharing funding program. If successful, it would provide a flat rate of $300 per deer, capped at $21,000, for the municipal deer cull budget.