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Kimberley may take a serious look at hazing deer

One approach the City will likely take a look at is hazing. But it's not as straightforward as it may seem.

Carolyn Grant

Urban Deer Committee Chair Gary Glinz told Kimberley Mayor and Council on Monday evening that the choice of Coun. Darryl Oakley to sit on the deer committee was a good one.

"He is often called upon to use his well-developed diplomacy skills in keeping us focused on our main objective, keeping Kimberley a safe and enjoyable community for all," Glinz said.

"The Committee represents very diverse backgrounds and that's what we want," Oakley said. "There are times when you could charge admission, times when it's fiery, but it's a healthy process."

Oakley reiterates that the goal is the safety of the community, and no single approach will work.

One approach the City will likely take a look at is hazing. But it's not as straightforward as it may seem.

The biggest problem is that hazing is illegal in British Columbia.

"Hazing deals with habituated deer," Oakley said. "And because it's illegal, it's going to require a proposal to get an experimental process going."

It will also require permission from private landowners.

Hazing, Oakley explains, is not dogs stampeding deer through the streets.

"The dogs are trained to walk deer out of town," he said. "It's negative reinforcement. The deer come back, the dogs walk them out again. The deer don't like being pushed out of town again and again. It's been a success in Waterton and Banff.

"It does cost money, so a partnership with Animal Alliance could be something we look at."

But it will also take time. The deer committee will meet with the hazing experts, then it comes to Council. If Council accepts the idea they then apply to the appropriate Ministry for permission for a hazing experiment.

"It does look promising for parts of Kimberley like Townsite and Marysville," Oakley said. "But it's one piece of a comprehensive plan.

"The 2012 report from the Urban Deer Committee is a road-map to sustainable urban ungulate management.

"In a perfect world you would have nature managing itself. In the not so perfect world if there is an incident in Kimberley, the CO responds if they can.

"Animal Alliance is asking that there is no cull while the hazing trial takes place and we are trying to get a hazing experiment before any cull."

Council has not yet approved applying for any cull at all, Oakley says.

"But given that the deer count is down to 126, we would like to do spot culls based on serious incidents."

Serious complaints have dropped off. There were 20 in 2012, post-cull, while there were 33 complaints in 2011. Complaints in 2012 included a couple of very serious ones, such as an eight-year-old boy walking to school in Townsite who was confronted by a buck and almost gored.

"He was lucky, and smart enough, to get behind a power pole," Oakley said. "Now, Animal Alliance will say, 'the rut was on and you need to up your education', but he's eight. We had a little girl delivering papers in Marysville last year and she was being harrassed by a doe. In those situations, that's severe habituation coming out."

The City does have to have the ability to respond to those situations, Oakley says.

"What we're trying to do is keep the deer population level, but to be able to respond to serious incidents.

"Based on the numbers we are going to implement whatever measures we can to keep numbers at a low density. It's multi-faceted and comprehensive. Some are trials and may or may not work.

"The message is we are trying all these things. It's a big experiment and we may still have to do a cull as a piece of it."

Oakley points out that they have it down to a science in Banff to control the elk population, but they also have a huge budget with three people working full time on it.

And still, they do spot culling in Banff.

"It's Parks Canada. They have lots of money. They haze, they translocate — which elk respond better to than mule deer — they have huge education programs, but they do cull with sharpshooters in January. They keep that population stable."