A few dozen concerned residents opposed to a recent decision approving an urban deer cull protested outside city hall ahead of a council meeting on Monday night.
Organized by Trev Miller and the Cranbrook Friends of Animals Society, protesters held signs opposing the urban deer cull, a decision that was approved by council on Oct. 28.
“These animals had ancestors that lived in this area long before the people lived here, and there are lots of other options that council can take that are non-lethal,” said Miller. “They can, at least, investigate these other options and push for them whereas instead, they’re choosing to destroy animals, many of whom have no aggressive tendencies, some of whom may be protective towards their young, as anyone would be.”
The city’s wildlife permit, issued by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, allows for a cull of 60 mule deer and 10 whitetail deer and is eligible between December 2019-March 2020. A proposed budget for the cull includes $45,000, or $650 per deer, however, the city is also applying for funding from the province to mitigate those costs.
According to a staff report presented during the meeting when the cull was approved, there have been 38 complaints of aggressive deer so far this year. One complaint included a confirmed case of a dog getting killed in one incident and a second case where a dog and its owner were injured in a confrontation.
Council has long claimed that urban deer management is the responsibility of the province and that culls are the only option made available to municipalities in order to control ungulate populations.
During the discussion before approving the cull, Cranbrook Mayor Lee Pratt framed the decision as a public safety issue.
“I say this every year, but from my standpoint, we have to do a cull for the safety of our residents,” said 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.”
“For council to say that this is the province’s jurisdiction is really a cop-out,” Miller said. “When they’ve had other options in the past, when the province hasn’t given the only option to be a lethal cull, they very often — in fact, every time — decided on the lethal course of action.”
Miller also called the cull an ‘expensive, costly band-aid’ and noted it is a short-term solution to a longer term issue. He also suggested that increased education could help reduce human and urban deer conflict.
In years past, the city participated in a translocation study alongside three other East Kootenay communities that captured urban deer and released them into winter ranges with GPS collars to study their movement patterns.
The community of Oak Bay on Vancouver Island is also currently involved with a study on the use of contraceptives to prevent female urban deer from fawning.