Mayor on cull: ‘They’re not our deer’

Cranbrook’s mayor justifies council’s decision to cull 30 deer by saying the province didn’t give them a choice.

After refusing to provide comment on council’s decision last week, Cranbrook’s Mayor Wayne Stetski has explained why the city is culling another 30 deer this winter.

Speaking about the decision at Monday’s regular council meeting, Mayor Stetski said he wants permission from the province to try other methods of urban deer management, pointing out several times “they are the province’s deer”.

“Deer are owned by the province. We and all of the municipalities in Canada can only do what the province permits us to do.

“We often hear groups asking for a variety of options, like hazing — chasing them out of Cranbrook with dogs. We hear about translocation of deer. We hear about using infertility drugs with does,” said Stetski.

“We can only do what the province gives us permission to do. We want to work with the province to get permission to try other deer management techniques and tools, and maybe some we haven’t even thought of yet.”

On Thursday, the City of Cranbrook announced that it has a permit to kill another 30 mule deer using clover traps inside city limits, and council has agreed to go ahead with the cull. It would not say when or where the traps would be set, and council would not provide any comment on how it reached the decision.

It is the second cull to be carried out in Cranbrook, after 25 urban mule and whitetail deer were trapped and killed in November 2011.

Last October, Mayor Stetski said the city would hold off on the second cull until a court case over Invermere’s cull was resolved. The civil case is ongoing in B.C. Supreme Court.

On Monday, Mayor Stetski seemed to express regret over how council handled the announcement, but explained that public safety was its primary concern.

“Could we have done a better job as council in communication with the public around the deer cull? I think so,” he said.

“At the same time, we were encouraged from a safety perspective to limit the amount of information going out there. By safety I mean safety for residents who might want to have a trap in their yard as part of this process, safety for contractors who are doing the work. There were issues in Invermere last year. So the advice we were given was: be cautious around the information you release. Maybe we were too cautious.”

The mayor also asked public interest groups to put forward funds so that if the province allows the city to try other methods of deer control, it will have the money to do so.

“We do want to work in partnership with other groups that have a real interest in deer and wildlife in Cranbrook. They seem to be fairly good at attracting money, so let’s ask them to partner with us and use some of that money to implement other kinds of techniques here in Cranbrook,” said Stetski.

He said that council struggled with the decision, realizing that the community was divided on the issue.

“It is indeed a controversial issue and council respects that fact — believe me, council respects that it’s a controversial issue. We continue to hear from the citizens of Cranbrook both for and against the deer population.

“I want everybody to understand how much we struggle with this issue. We really do. Looking ahead to the future, I think it would be great to have a variety of tools that we can choose from to try them and have funding for. But to do that we need the province on side with approvals and funding, and I think we need to tap into the real interest there is out there for deer in Cranbrook and try to access some of that financing moving forward,” said Stetski.

He said that in the past 12 months, the Conservation Officer Service has euthanized 55 deer in and around Cranbrook that have been injured in accidents and motor vehicle collisions.

“If you look around and think there don’t seem to be as many deer here as previously, that’s possibly one of the reasons,” said Stetski.