Penticton still has sights set on deer

While only 20 deer were spotted during an early morning count on May 18, city staff are declaring it a successful excursion.

While only 20 deer were spotted during an early morning count on May 18, city staff are declaring it a successful excursion.

Nine teams spread out through Penticton in the early morning hours, trying to gather information to support a possible future deer cull to thin the numbers making their way to the city. However, director of development services Anthony Haddad said they did see evidence of deer, such as vegetation damaged or destroyed by deer, though he also included the fact that residents had installed deer-proof fencing as part of his evidence.

“The spring deer count, while numbers were low and not reflective of the total number of deer in the area, provided valuable information in moving this issue forward,” said Haddad.

Reasons for numbers being low, he said, included deer moving back to feeding grounds outside the city and that pregnant does become more secretive when about to give birth and for a few weeks after.

Coun. Helen Konanz questioned whether doing the count at another time of year, perhaps fall and winter instead of spring and fall, would result in more accurate numbers.

“I know I have seen more than 20 deer at one time,” she said.

Haddad admitted they expected to see a larger number of deer during the fall count, but said the separated times were necessary.

“Looking over the entire year, we need to do a spring count and fall count to make sure we have some sort of a baseline number over the year, then again the following year to determine if there are any differences,” said Haddad. “We have been working closely with the ministry in trying to come up with a best practice on this issue. It’s fairly new to a lot of communities in B.C., so we are all trying to do it as efficiently as possible.”

Meanwhile, the Conservation Officer Service is warning about the dangers of interacting with deer, pointing out that the two most common problems are “orphaned” fawns, and deer reacting aggressively to humans and dogs.

Late May and June is the time of year that conservation officers receive numerous calls from concerned citizens that they have found an “orphaned deer” and want to know what to do with it.

“The answer is simple. Take it back to where you found it and leave it alone,” according to a recent release from the service.

Almost always the adorable fawn is not orphaned at all. Rather, fawns are often left camouflaged in grass or brush while the mother goes off to forage.

In urban or suburban areas, does may quite often leave their fawns in secluded backyards or near trails with plenty of plant life for protective cover. However, according to conservation officers, this is a temporary situation. Once the fawns are strong enough to keep up with their mother, the female will lead it away to more usual surroundings.

Another regular call to conservation officers often starts with “I was out walking my dog…”

Female deer can be very protective mothers and will defend their young from predators. Doe deer view domestic dogs as potential predators and may act quickly and aggressively to drive a dog away from the fawns, even if the dog is in the owner’s backyard or is on a leash being walked by the owner.

“If you are walking your dog on trails, understand the anxiety of the mother deer and give her a wide margin,” according to the service. “It may be prudent to carry a walking stick at this time of the year or avoid trails known to be frequented by deer.”