The days of deer over-population are numbered, after Penticton council unanimously approved a five-point management strategy to reduce deer conflicts and encroachment on city limits.
Hunting, culling, public education, ongoing monitoring and consultation are included in the plan approved Monday by council, which had requested a draft plan based on the findings of the City of Kimberley’s urban deer committee.
Anthony Haddad, the city’s development services director, told council that the first of the five actions consists of a controlled public hunt, with locations restricted to urban city and privately owned properties that would be specifically identified in advance. Hunting would also be restricted to deer without antlers and during periods when less people are expected to be about.
“Parameters also need to be set around the number of participants, seasons and weapon types,” Haddad said.
City bylaws would have to be amended to permit legal and regulated hunting, in addition to detailing more stringent controls and restrictions. Permits would be required from the Ministry of Environment, and public education of hunters and residents in general will be required.
Haddad said the public hunt tactic focuses on individual animals and small groups, instead of a wider population management approach, although a capture and cull program would target residential properties with reported deer problems.
In that program, deer will be trapped and then subsequently tranquilized and killed on site with a bolt gun. Once dead, the animal will be transported to an appropriate processing facility.
Haddad said staff will discuss the cull issue with processing plants and food banks to ensure the resulting deer meat could go to good use.
The city would also have to put together a strategy to get the public on board, he added. Pamphlets and brochures must be drafted and distributed to residents to notify the public.
“Education sessions will be required for both prospective hunters and the general public as they relate to council’s desired deer management strategy,” Haddad said.
Information on the types of vegetation that attract or repel deer to residential areas should also be distributed, he said, with the aim to educate the public on the role they play on curbing deer over-population.
Haddad said the city will have to draft a bylaw that explicitly disallows feeding of deer, and monitor the over-population situation continuously.
“Ongoing monitoring of the deer population and implications would need to occur. Population data, reporting of complaints and motor vehicle collisions, documentation of animals being removed, vegetation damage would help to determine the effects of management actions and evaluation effectiveness,” he said.
To monitor progress, Haddad explained staff time would have to be allocated and community volunteers would need to help with regular deer counts within city limits — or a city committee could be formed to administer the strategy.
The fifth component to the plan calls for consultation with various groups: the public, parks and recreation advisory committee, agricultural advisory committee, RCMP, B.C. SPCA, Ministry of Environment, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, city staff and other stakeholders.
Coun. Mike Pearce initiated the discussion around problem deer, and said Monday he was prepared to adopt the recommendations providing an amendment could be included that consultation happen concurrently as steps are taken to reduce deer over-population, rather than wait for meetings to conclude.
“The basis of this was Kimberley, which had very comprehensive input leading up to the report,” he said. “The recommendations are fairly well consistent with what Kimberley felt were successful.”
Coun. Garry Litke said encouraging the installation of deer-repellant plants might appear off-putting to residents who are pinching their pennies.
“When I try to buy that myself, I know it can be expensive,” he said.
Litke mused whether it could be feasible for the city to entice residents to convert their plants into species that are less alluring to deer with programs, much akin to support provided for eco-energy retrofits and low-flow toilets. Haddad said staff could put together a cost estimate of what a financial support program could look like.