City deer cull in holding pattern

Penticton mayor hoping increased hunting will deal with deer over-population

  • Dec. 20, 2011 9:00 a.m.

Penticton has developments in Cranbrook in its sights, as the Kootenay city heads down the path toward an operational deer cull program.

The Ministry of Forests, Range and Natural Resources issued Cranbrook a permit to kill up to 25 mule deer in an effort to address the burgeoning ungulate population.

“I’m waiting to see what happens in Cranbrook,” Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton said, adding that the discussion this fall has not only heightened people’s knowledge of problem deer, but become an invitation for hunters. “By bringing this awareness up, I’ve heard there’s a few more people hunting this year.”

Chris Zettel, the City of Cranbrook’s corporate communications manager, had indicated last week that custom-made clover traps were being built in Helena, Mont., as the city waited for official word from the ministry. Once those were issued, the city would hire a contractor to carry out the cull, set for this winter.

“We really don’t want to go beyond the end of February because by then you’re starting to see a lot of does with fawns. We want to avoid that at all costs,” Zettel said.

Between 20 and 25 urban mule deer will be culled — more than the city originally planned.

“Initially when we did the urban deer count last November we came up with a number between 10 and 12. Since that count happened, we’ve had another birth cycle.”

Cranbrook has modelled its deer cull strategy out of Helena, which is in its third year of culls. That city euthanized 200 deer the first year, around 40 the next year and 20 this year.

The City of Penticton has fashioned its deer cull program after that of Kimberley, which also looked to successes south of the border in Montana.

Kimberley’s plan included clover traps and netting at residential properties where owners reported problem deer. The traps were baited between 8 and 10 p.m., and agents checked the traps at 6 a.m. each day. If a deer was trapped, agents would collapse the trap, secure the deer, use a bolt gun on the animal and then remove the carcass on a sled. Wherever possible, the meat from culled deer was processed and purchased by food banks for their patrons.

Kimberley also initiated a controlled public hunt of antlerless deer on specific city-owned or private land on days of reduced human activity.

Ashton said he is hoping a fruitful hunting season will show lower numbers in the local urban deer population, which would preclude the city from having to move forward with a cull.

“During hunting season, I think the hunters, in my opinion, can be a great benefit. The meat gets utilized and we hope that it does,” he said.

“That was my condition of support in that procedure was that it was more based on hunting, like what happened with the geese. The goose population appears, I’m hoping it is, to be down and I think hunting has a lot to do with that.

“I’m hoping the deer counts will be down because of hunting and proper utilization of the meat. I’m not in favour of the euthanization process at all. My thought was let the hunters take care of it.”

Anthony Haddad, the city’s development services director, said Penticton has not officially applied to the ministry for its urban hunting permit, as the decision was made too late to affect the 2011 hunting season.

“The ministry needs requests early in the new year so they can change their rules if need be,” Haddad said, adding the 2012 hunting season is more likely.

Council will review a more detailed deer cull plan likely in January, he said, after a report is drafted detailing the actions to be taken and the costs associated with the cull, such as hiring a contractor — which Cranbrook has to mind clover traps.




— with files from the Cranbrook Daily Townsman