Deer cull on back burner in Penticton

Mayor says despite court decision on cull in Invermere, council isn't going ahead yet with cull here

Penticton isn’t likely to see a deer cull anytime soon, even after a B.C. Supreme Court judge decided against an animal rights group trying to stop a deer harvest in Invermere.

“I don’t think we will be able to come charging out of the gate on this issue until we wait  for the dust to settle a little bit,” said Penticton Mayor Garry Litke.

“Knowing they will not be happy with the outcome, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is not going to be some sort of an appeal or some attempt to take it to a different or higher court.”

Communities across the province, including Penticton, put their own deer cull plans on hold while the Invermere Deer Protection Society argued that the town had not properly consulted residents before beginning their deer cull.

“We used a similar process to what the government recommended. They were attacking the process and claiming that we didn’t do a good enough job consulting,” said Mayor Gerry Taft of Invermere.

“Many other communities followed the same process, so if the judge said that process is lacking in some way, that would have had implications for other communities.”

Taft said deer are still a problem within city limits. Since Invermere already has a referendum on a new community centre this weekend, they are adding a question about the deer cull to the ballot.

“Based on the results of that vote — only residents of Invermere are eligible to vote — then council will take that as information to guide a future decision,” said Taft.

“At this point we haven’t budgeted any money, we haven’t made any plans to proceed with another deer cull.

We will be very interested to see what the result of the vote is.”

Penticton council has not had a chance to sit down and discuss the ramifications of the decision, but Litke said it’s unlikely Penticton would do a referendum, though he said it might be a possibility to pose a similar question during the municipal election voting in Nov. 2014.

“Where I am sitting right now today, I am not feeling a lot of urgency to either take action or to initiate a referendum,” said Litke. “The number of complaints about deer has really dropped off in the last little while.

“I don’t know if that is because they knew it was in court or they are learning to live with the deer or people are adjusting.

“I don’t know why, but there are fewer complaints than we have had in the past. It’s been nearly a two year battle for Invermere, a small town with a population of 3,002.

“The lawsuit was filed in February of 2012,” said Taft. “We spent nearly $40,000 on legal fees around this.”

Litke said he felt bad Invermere was the target of the lawsuit.

“I know the mayor of Invermere got hate mail and death threats and all kinds of nasty stuff from all over the world, people who have never even visited B.C.,” said Litke.

“It was a tiny little city council from Invermere that was in conflict with animal rights activists from around the world. Huge organizations were funding the legal challenge, I always thought it seemed very much like an uneven fight.”