Deer in the Penticton area can breathe a huge sigh of relief.
After years of discussing the deer problem, public input and many hours of research by city staff, Penticton city council dropped all plans to deal with deer inside city limits, including the plan approved last month to try relocation.
“There just seem to be too many impediments and too many obstacles. It is now going to go back to the individual to deal with the situation in their own yards,” said Mayor Garry Litke, who initiated the relocation concept.
According to Coun. Helena Konanz, the city has already invested too much time, energy and money on deer already. She was happy not to be spending even more to relocate them.
“I think we have just saved $15,000. We need to move on. I feel bad for the amount of time staff has been spending on this when we have more important things to do in the city,” she said.
Key to this change of heart was a letter received on Feb. 28 from the provincial government detailing problems with the proposed relocation plan, including the proposed site and the effect the process would have on the deer. More community consultation would also be needed.
“It was shocking to receive the communication from the ministry of the environment creating a whole new bunch of obstacles,” said Litke, who thought the ministry was in support after discussing the plan with their representatives.
Litke’s move to put the onus on landowners jibes with the opinion expressed by Heather Caron, who led a delegation at council Monday to plead against the relocation plan.
“I think we have a human problem,” said Caron.
“The city and the taxpayers are not responsible for individual landowners and them having deer in their backyards. It is their responsibility, if they don’t want that situation to occur, to deal with it.
“It is not the city’s problem.”
Caron came loaded with alternate suggestions, including the use of herding dogs, contraceptives and simply not putting in plants deer like to feed on.
After the 6-2 vote, she says she is guardedly optimistic, but expects the subject of deer control will resurface.
“This is ongoing, it will come back up. If we are moving in where wildlife lives, there has to be some sort of agreement about living together,” she said. “If those thousand houses get built up on Naramata Road, we’re moving again into territory where there is going to be deer.”
Coun. Judy Sentes said she wanted to be clear the city wasn’t giving up on the problem entirely, but would continue to enforce the bylaw forbidding feeding of deer and educating the public.
“I don’t feel it (relocation) is appropriate, I don’t see it as being successful and I will say again, I am not sure what the problem is,” said Sentes.
“There have been fears expressed, but we have no documentation to support those fears.”
Education wasn’t enough for Coun. Wes Hopkin, who, along with Coun. Andrew Jakubeit, voted against simply abandoning the relocation plan.
“We have to take some action because there is no way to remove the human error which could lead to a safety problem,” said Hopkin. “I refuse to say it’s your fault you hit a deer.”
That too, said Litke, shouldn’t be considered the sole responsibility of the city.
“It is not the responsibility of government to protect people from every risk or every harm they might encounter in their life. We don’t have that capability,” he said.
Coun. John Vassilaki, who admitted he once struck a deer, said there is nothing new about that situation.
“There are always deer on the road, there are always mishaps that happen,” said Vassilaki.
“In most cases, it is road conditions or speeding that causes those accidents. We just have to respect nature, just like we expect nature to respect us.”