Penticton city council has decided not to pursue a deer cull program, despite a recent B.C. Supreme court decision supporting a similar cull in Invermere.
Instead, council voted in support of a plan to capture deer and truck them to Penticton Indian Band lands this spring. The deer will be tagged to monitor if any of them make their way back across the channel.
But it doesn’t necessarily mean the deer will be living out long contented lives. The inspiration for the relocation concept came when Mayor Garry Litke was chatting with Chief John Kruger.
“He was bemoaning the fact he had gone hunting and spent $60 in gas driving all over the country and didn’t see a deer, then drove into Penticton and saw deer everywhere,” said Litke.
“He said, I have a problem, you have a problem. So we began brainstorming solutions.”
Chief Kruger said the band was willing to work with the city on transplanting deer to their lands, and that it would benefit both parties: helping Penticton with the urban deer population, while increasing the deer population on band lands.
“Our hunters travel all over the place and sometimes they come home empty-handed,” said Kruger. “I think it’s a good idea, it’s a good story where we are working together for each other’s interest.”
Penticton approved a deer cull on Jan. 23, 2012, but put it on hold shortly after,when the Invermere Deer Protection Society took that community to court over its cull.
In October 2013, Madame Justice Miriam Gropper dismissed the petition and found that Invermere had followed proper procedures and done sufficient consultation with the community.
One of the advantages of the relocation program, according to Litke, is the work can begin in the near future. In order to cull the deer, Litke said the city would need to start over.
“We were following the Invermere and Cranbrook example, but because there has been that long period of inaction, I wouldn’t feel comfortable about continuing down that path unless we went back to the community and back to a period of community consultation,” said Litke. “We will be sitting here a year from now with still nothing done.”
Litke said the city is still receiving complaints about urban deer, including an innovative, if anonymous, one that was dropped off at city hall a month ago.
“We actually got a statue of a deer that was put on the front steps of city hall. It was constructed completely out of deer poop,” said Litke.
According to the Ministry of the Environment, relocation is likely to cost about $1,000 per deer, as opposed to $500 per deer for a cull. Litke said the price will drop in following years as PIB members working on the project become trained in the net traps and handling the deer; an outside contractor would not be needed. The high price inspired council members to put a budget limit of $15,000 on the request for proposals staff is now preparing for a contractor to handle the relocation.
But Couns. Katie Robinson and John Vassilaki objected to pursuing the deer management program in any way.
“If we open this door we are going to be paying for the relocation of deer for eternity. Whether it is $1,000 per deer or $200 per deer, it just doesn’t make any sense to me at all,” said Robinson. “If we are going to spend any money on deer management, I would rather spend it on public education and tell people not to feed the deer.”
Robinson said that nature should be left to take care of what goes on in the wild, and that a management program would be ineffective in the long run.
“The deer are not going to stop coming,” said Robinson, noting that the city isn’t talking about managing cougars and coyotes and bears, “all that are more dangerous to the population that Bambi.”
Vassilaki simply felt the city had spent enough time working on something he didn’t feel was a major problem.
“I think it is about time we put this thing to bed. We have to get rid of this and get it out of the way, and besides, my wife would never forgive me if I voted of getting rid of deer,” said Vassilaki.
A motion by Vassilaki to take no action was defeated and council voted 4-2 in favour of beginning the process to locate a contractor to handle the relocation early in spring 2014.