After much debate and research, the District of Invermere’s Urban Deer Management Committee submitted its final report and recommendations to council this week, calling for a combination of trap and cull, relocation, public education and, ultimately, strategic fencing as part of a multifaceted solution to the escalating deer issues within Invermere and area.
The original report, which was on the agenda for the July 12th council meeting, was altered slightly after one final working meeting on Wednesday, July 20th, said District of Invermere Mayor, Gerry Taft, and now council will discuss the final version before the end of the month.
If accepted by council, the revised report recommends the district engage the province to gain permission and support to begin a safe and discreet trap and cull program as early as this fall, with a possible relocation program to begin in the spring. Mayor Taft said this timeline is not necessarily realistic, as currently the province has yet to agree to give the district permission to begin any programs aimed at reducing the deer population in town.
“They [the deer] are considered the property of the province, and that’s part of the frustration because we can’t do anything without the province’s approval or blessing. At the same time, the province isn’t willing to come in and actually provide any money or assistance, yet we are the ones who are blamed if anything happens.”
The report outlines the pros and cons of each of the population control methods, and points out that although relocation may seem like a more humane option at first glance, it could essentially result in the demise of the deer as the animals are habituated to an urban environment and may not survive being put back into the wild.
Mayor Taft said that from his discussions with residents, it seems many of them are reluctantly agreeable to a trap and cull program, but only if the meat is used by food banks or local residents. This is problematic too, he continued, as current provincial regulations prevent members of the public from accessing the meat from culled deer, and there are high costs associated with butchering the animals properly.
“We are not alone in this situation. We are at the same stage and going through the same things as Kimberly, Grand Forks, Sparwood and Cranbrook to a certain extent, and that’s just in the Kootenay region. We are hoping we can get the ear of government to develop more of a provincial strategy so that we’re not all doing this on our own.”
Leaving the deer population to continue to grow unchecked is not a favourable option either, as that this could result in a variety of negative consequences, including the attraction of larger predators into town, increased human-deer conflicts and, eventually, a sick and diseased deer population if they begin to run out of food sources, Mayor Taft said. They could then go on to infect wild populations of deer, which would have many far-reaching negative consequences throughout the Columbia Valley.
Getting the population down to a manageable number is priority number one, both the report and Mayor Taft indicated. Less extreme management strategies can then be employed to maintain deer populations, like strategic fencing in key travel corridors. Ultimately though, Mayor Taft recognized that whatever decision the district goes with, it will be making a significant number of residents unhappy.
“It is a complete lose-lose situation because there are people who won’t be happy either way. We’re not happy about it either. It is not a fun topic and it is not something we are looking forward to. If we do nothing we will make a lot of people unhappy, and if we do something we’re going to make a lot of people unhappy. Right now is the worst because we are proposing to do something that pisses a bunch of people off, but we don’t have the ability to actually do anything right now until the province gives us the go ahead.”
According to the report, an urban deer count undertaken in February recorded approximately 200 deer in a two hour period, or about 20 deer per square kilometre.