Penticton puts deer cull on hold

Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton wants the province to play a more active role in the issue of urban deer

Deer wandering the streets of Penticton shouldn’t be worried about a cull of their numbers, at least not for a while yet.

While deer counts and other investigations continue, city staff has recommended to council that no further action be taken, at least until a lawsuit against the district of Invermere has been settled.

Invermere Mayor Gerry Taft said the lawsuit brought against his community by the Invermere Deer Protection Society is seeking to overturn resolutions made by their council, on the grounds that not enough consultation and investigation of the problem has been done. As a side issue, the society is seeking pain and suffering damages, citing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Since all communities are following the guidelines set out by the Ministry of Environment, a decision against Invermere would put them all in the same boat, resulting in a general freeze by municipalities on any further action.

“That may have been their intention,” said Taft, who feels the lawsuit may have been filed as more of a threat. “At one point they said if we promised not to do any culls in the near future they would hold the lawsuit and not go any further.”

Invermere now has a permanent deer management committee and is continuing with deer counts to gather information for a possible future cull or other action.

Mayor Dan Ashton said it is time that the province and Environment Minister Terry Lake took a more active hand.

“This is a provincial issue, we don’t have any control over wildlife issues,” he said. “Now all of a sudden a municipality is charged and defending itself. In my opinion, the province has to step up to the plate here … either delegate that authority or they themselves take on the responsibility of dealing with an issue that is going to continue to grow.”

Ashton said he hopes the province is not only listening to the City of Penticton, but listening to all the communities that are being affected by the urban deer problem.

“A simple way the city would have to get engaged with this is there may have to be a shotgun opening, extended season,” said Ashton. “We do not allow the discharge of firearms in the city core, but in the vineyards and the orchards, there may be an opportunity as there was before, but again, we have to work in conjunction with the province.”

Anthony Haddad, director of development services, suggested city council might want to do a survey to gauge what actions the community would like to address the deer population.

“This will most certainly be a requirement of the ministry prior to the issuance of any permits and should be considered before this matter is moved forward,” said Haddad.

Future Penticton deer counts might be done over the course of a week. The initial spring and fall counts conducted by the city spotted just 20 and 49 deer respectively, which Haddad suggests is not representative.

“Most likely, based on the complaints we received, the numbers are higher,” he said. “Municipalities are learning as they go that it is more appropriate to do two to three counts within a week … to better reflect an average.”

Offering his own anecdotal evidence, Ashton, agreed it is difficult to count the transient deer population, noting that Grand Forks has tried using paint ball guns to move the deer along. He suggested marking them during multiple counts.

“I had to stop on South Main as 12 deer walked across the road right in front of me,” said Ashton. “It is very difficult, we may have to look at how we do this and get a more accurate count.”