With little fanfare, the City of Penticton conducted their second deer count Wednesday, gathering information for a possible cull of deer within the city boundaries.
Teams fanned out through the city early Wednesday morning to count deer, finishing with a total count of 49 deer, more than double the spring count, which only found 20 deer inside city limits.
The data collected from both counts is intended to provide a baseline set of numbers to help council make a decision on whether to go ahead with an actual cull.
“Conducting deer counts twice annually is important due diligence under the city’s urban deer management strategy and consistent with the approaches taken by other municipalities dealing with this issue,” said Anthony Haddad, director of development services. Like other communities, Penticton is working closely with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Management on the issue.
“City staff has to provide council with as many details and background information as possible to inform their decisions,” said Haddad, who has suggested the low numbers of deer counted in the spring were not reflective of the true number of urban deer, citing visual evidence of their presence, including damaged vegetation and deer fencing, spotted by the teams conducting the count.
Other reasons for the spring count being low, Haddad said, may have been due to the count being conducted in birthing season. Deer may have moved back to feeding grounds outside the city, he explained, and pregnant does become more secretive when about to give birth and for a few weeks after.
However, both the fall and spring deer counts fall far short of the numbers counted in Invermere, which found 199 deer within their city limits when they conducted their first count in February 2011. Invermere set a goal of reducing the urban deer population to 50 by 2014, using a combination of a cull and relocation.
Their cull eventually went ahead in March of this year, but not before an anti-cull group filed a lawsuit and managed to obtain a temporary injunction. In turn, protesters were later charged by the RCMP for interfering with the cull after traps were vandalized.
The civil suit filed by the Invermere Deer Protection Society is expected to go to trial in January 2013.
Penticton city staff will compile the information collected during the urban deer count and provide an updated report for city council. Follow-up deer counts are also likely, as best practices in other municipalities indicate that counts at different times of the year have resulted in varying numbers, with fall counts typically higher than spring counts.
The fall count is the latest step in Penticton’s efforts to manage the urban deer issue, which began in September 2011. An urban deer management strategy was adopted by council in late 2011 and further refined in early 2012, when council also adopted a bylaw prohibiting feeding deer within city limits. Prohibiting the feeding of deer is considered to be a contributing factor in assisting with the reduction of the urban deer population.
More information about the city’s urban deer management strategy, as well as previous staff reports and provincial resources on urban deer conflicts are available at www.penticton.ca on the urban deer management page under the blue community tab.