If people fear deer, they are more likely to want them removed from the community, says Colleen Bailey of Humane Treatment of Urban Wildlife, and negative terms such as 'deer attack' and 'aggressive deer' only further that fear.
Bailey was speaking to Kimberley City Council on Monday evening, as part of a joint presentation with Animal Alliance. This coalition is looking for non-lethal ways to deal with urban deer, and appealed to Council to try anything but a cull.
Bailey calls the use of negative terms 'demonizing the deer' in her report to Council.
"How would one determine what is an 'acceptable population' based on diverse public opinion?" she asks. "Tolerance levels are reflective of various socio-economic values and attitudes and are greatly influenced by education and public policy.
"It is no wonder that some residents of Kimberley want the deer removed when the deer are labelled as over-abundant, aggressive, accident-causing, disease carrying creatures who share our environment.
"Negative language to describe deer behaviour is used to help build support to cull these animals. If people fear the deer, they are more inclined to want them to be removed from the community. In fact, as demonstrated in other jurisdictions, culls are demanded whether they work or not. However this fear creates very real barriers to the implementation of prevention and non-lethal intervention programs — 'these are bad animals, just get rid of them'."
Bailey's group believes that education is the key.
"We live in the Rocky Mountain Trench," she said. "Wildlife will always be part of the community. A cull does not deal with the problem permanently. The deer will always be there. If you understand the biology, movement patterns, body language, you can better understand the complaints.
"We need education. What is the real threat? The real danger?"