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Urban deer problem a regional issue

Invermere's rocky road to addressing the challenges of urban deer management.
With news that a deer translocation trial may take place in the fall

Deer culls are a contentious issue, and one that's not exclusive to the municipality of Cranbrook.

Just ask Gerry Taft.

The mayor of Invermere has been at the helm of the district since 2009 and has experienced first-hand the challenges of dealing with urban deer management.

As with Cranbrook, the management tool of a cull has set off a emotional debate debate from the public.

Taft said the district put in two years of planning back in 2010 with a committee and community consultation, which came to the conclusion of implementing a cull.

"We started the cull early in 2012 and right before the cull was going to begin, we got sued," said Taft.

"It was very emotional right before that as well. A group of people took us to court, got an injunction and delayed the cull.

"Eventually we were able to start the cull. They then went and scared away the contractor and put deer repellant around the traps, tried to vandalize traps—similar as to what we've heard in other communities."

The court case—Invermere Deer Protection Organization v District of Invermere—took over a year and a half to wrap up that ran up a taxpayer bill of $40,000, according to Taft.

In an effort to determine public support for a deer cull, the district tadded an opinion poll question to a referendum on a community hall.

"So it was about a 74 per cent response in favour of a deer cull as one of the tools, so council feels that they have a mandate from the public that they're comfortable with that," Taft said.

"…I've gone out and witnessed first-hand, the deer getting killed, and the process is very smooth, there's no suffering for the animals."

Taft says the city has managed to make their deer cull more operational with an open-ended permit that has a targeted approach.

"People can register a complaint about an aggressive deer in a certain neighbourhood and we can try to put traps in that area and we can be a little more strategic about where we're trying to get animals," said Taft.

"Our main goal is not to wipe out 100 deer or decrease by a certain number, but rather it's to respond to complaints as they come in."

Cranbrook efforts to manage urban deer have followed a similar pattern, without the lawsuit.

In the city's last cull, 24 mule deer were euthanized from Feb. 7 - 27, 2013. Kimberley had plans for a cull in February 2014 before clover traps were stolen. Traps have also become targets for vandalism as in the case last week in Cranbrook, where four traps had the netting slashed.

Like Cranbrook, Invermere recently chipped in some money for a regional study that will gather scientific data on the translocation of urban deer.

While Taft wants the provincial government to come to the table with more funding, he said Invermere is willing to contribute a share.

"For Invermere's perspective, we're a little bit skeptical this is going to be a silver bullet," said Taft. "It's worth studying and looking at, but we do have some concerns about whether relocation is going to prove to be scientifically valid and wether or not the animals are actually going to survive and the costs and the complications of actually doing it, whether it'll be worth the effort.

"But we're willing to put the money into the pot to try and study it and find out."