A deer grazes on grass in the Westridge neighbourhood of Invermere in late October. Photo by Greg Amos

A deer grazes on grass in the Westridge neighbourhood of Invermere in late October. Photo by Greg Amos

Editor’s note: Mr. Malfair is a former member of the deer committee. His letter that appeared in The Pioneer was shortened significantly; here is the full letter.

The deer concerns of this town have gone well beyond flowers. The residents of Invermere are dealing with more than damaged shrubs. I am not alone in being concerned daily for my childs safety while walking in our neighbourhood, or in my concern about the amount of deer feces in the parks and public areas where we enjoy the outdoors. Let alone the fact that these feces are tracked into our homes, vehicles and schools.

I do not have a dog but have witnessed the concern of pet owners while out walking. The people of Invermere are the ones who carry these concerns, not the people who travel through our neighbourhoods. Yet, the ones who are so opposed to any form of deer management in our town reside outside of Invermere. I say to you, Mr. Kazakoff, its time to get off your soapbox.

Mr. Kazakoff maintains there isnt a problem with the deer population. The solutions that he has served up to the media have been in support of his agenda and are not feasible, nor supported by the Ministry of the Environment. It is simple to comb the internet looking for solutions to back your argument but when it comes to boots on the ground, the Urban Deer Advisory Committee sought out and spoke to various professionals, including biologists and Parks Canada about a host of solutions. The first Urban Deer Advisory Committee had two retired Conservation officers, each with over 25 years of experience in urban wildlife management. Other members had experience working with wildlife in agriculture. How many more qualification does Mr. Kazakoff expect?

The district selected a group of people to the Urban Deer Advisory Committee that were open to deer management, not just a cull. The now-defunct second deer committee was headed up by one retired Conservation Officer and progress was being made, but thats another story.

In July 2012, the committee hosted the regional biologist from Cranbrook to explain options available to manage the local deer population. Representatives from the Invermere Deer Protection Society, the Lake Windermere Rod and Gun club, council and mayor, were invited and present to hear straight from the biologist what is available and the process required for each management option.

As far as dog hazing goes, the Deer Protection Society holds Banff and Waterton on a pedestal for their wildly successful programs. Banff tried hazing elk many years ago and stopped the program. They have since relocated over 600 elk in ten years and now simply identify and kill the 25 most aggressive elk each year. They also manage their population with the Bow Valley wolf pack by shutting access to escape routes when the wolves are present.

Waterton just completed a three-year pilot program using dogs to haze deer during fawning season. The cost of the program was around $13,000 for six weeks each year. There are no fences in Waterton to hinder the dogs movement. The townsite is about a tenth the size of Invermere, and has undeveloped wildland no more than 800 metres from downtown.

Prior to the hazing program, Waterton wardens identified and killed any deer that showed aggression, and unsuccessfully relocated several deer. During winter, the townsite is almost abandoned, allowing cougars to roam and kill deer where they find them. All these factors and a difficult winter in 2011-2012 has resulted in a much lower deer population in Waterton now.

I visited Waterton in July 2012 and spoke with the Park Biologist and the dog handler; I contacted the biologist in July this year and again two weeks ago. To claim the hazing program fixed Watertons problem is only a partial truth. Its ironic the Deer Protection Society holds Waterton in such high regard when none of them has even spoke with the Parks Canada and the people running the program!

I joined the Urban Deer Advisory Committee to cut through the part truths and rhetoric and find out what we can do to manage the deer population. The committee and council investigated multiple options to question the biologists on what to do. The biologists opinion, which is based on university education and years of experience, have revealed few options.

No group has stepped forward to take any of the district’s offers of funding for various programs with final approval coming from the Ministry of Environment. Kimberley residents are enjoying the results of their successful cull two years ago even by writing to our paper to question our sanity on the delay.

Its a bitter pill to swallow to complete a cull of 100 deer, but with no other viable options, its time to get on with it. If you want anything done about the deer issue, heres your chance to keep all available options open and let the qualified professionals do their jobs

Calling all people of Invermere who want something done about the deer show up, speak up, and let your concerns be known. If you dont then a well-organized opposition will determine for you what can or cant be done.

Brad Malfair