Cranbrook’s radio-collared deer, and their fawns, have all taken to hanging out in my yard for much of the day. It’s their home away from home. Rather, it’s their home.
Perhaps they like it so much because of its great expanse, and the surrounding hedge that cuts off the wind and the outside world. Or maybe because our only guard creature is a young cat, who is only interested in patrolling the perimeter against other neighourhood cats. Or perhaps it’s because try as I may, whenever I come out to pick up the fallen apples, the deer are already there. I can’t be home 24 hours a day, whereas the deer can. They wait under the tree, and when I come home, there they are, ruminating, chewing their d—d cuds.
We all know the story of Cranbrook’s herd of radio-collared deer. They were captured in Kimberley, tagged, collared, and released north of Canal Flats. Then they gradually moved south, meandering with a mazy motion, even stopping along the way to have fawns, at places like Trickle Creek golf course. Into Cranbrook they came, augmenting our famous urban herd, and finding the places they like best, like my yard.
Thanks to GPS, we were able to track their every step and action, all for science. Or so I thought.
The other week, I stepped out on to the back deck, to get a few lungfuls of fresh, smoky air. I was in the process of complaining bitterly to the family about my utilities bill. A radio-collared deer was in the yard, ruminating, but I paid it no heed.
“I wrote City Hall to tell them I’m a Cranbrook taxpayer, and for the money I pay, to expect me to haul my own garbage out to the alley … I’ll be d—d if I’m going to put up with that,” I shouted, back into the house, where the family was trying to ignore me.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the radio-collared deer turn its ears towards me. But I paid no heed.
“I’ll tell you what I’m going to do!” I shouted. “I’m going to go before City Council as a delegation about how unfair it is that I have to haul my own garbage bags out to the alley!”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a red light begin to blink on the deer’s radio collar. I turned to stare. The blinking light stopped.
I turned back and continued shouting.
“What is this, the Communist city state?” I shouted. “I’m a taxpayer! I’m a …” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the red light start to blink. I got distracted, and went back into the house. The deer turned its ears away.
Two days later, I got a missive from City Hall. “Dear Mr. Coulter. Thanks for your interest in being a delegation before City Council. As is policy, we will slot you into the next available Council meeting. We anticipate a date of Monday, March …, 2032. All the best, etc.”
“How odd,” I thought. “I hadn’t even applied to be a delegation yet.”
A few days later, I was out on the deck, breathing the smoky air. I was on my cellphone with a friend. A radio-collared deer was hanging out nearby.
“I tell you it’s true,” I said. “I’ve found a way to sneak into the Aquatic Centre without paying. It’s bona fide!” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a red light begin to blink on the deer’s collar. This time, I kept my peripheral vision on it. A sudden suspicion had entered my mind.
“That’s right,” I said into the phone. “And tomorrow, I’m going down there for a ‘free’ swim!” I rang off. The blinking light on the deer’s collar stopped.
The next day, I went down to sneak into the Aquatic Centre. But at the secret entry point, a big man was standing. He nodded as I approached (and suddenly tried to change direction as I saw him). “Morning — Mr. Coulter,” he said. “Can I help you with something?”
I slunk away. My suspicions were confirmed.
I spent that evening shouting at my family. “The radio-collared deer are controlled by the City, and are spying on honest, upstanding taxpaying citizens like me!” I shouted. My family rolled their collective eyes. With my peripheral vision, I noticed two radio-collared deer, red lights blinking away at their throats.
“It’s obvious!” I shouted. “How else would I have got that fine for not picking up the apples!”
My daughter had had enough. “Why would the radio-collared deer have sent City Hall a message about the apples, when that’s their main source of food!” she shouted back.
I went outside in a huff. The radio-collared deer turned their ears away. The lights stopped blinking.
I sat down outside beside the smart meter. A big buck mule deer was relaxing nearby, ruminating.
“No radio collar around your neck,” I said to him. “I can trust you.”
“That’s what you think,” the deer said under its breath.
“What!” I said. The deer turned its ears away.
Barry Coulter is Editor of the Cranbrook Townsman