The city’s deer plan is becoming all talk and no action according to one councillor frustrated with delays.
Penticton development services director Anthony Haddad gave a progress report Monday night on the urban deer management strategy recently approved by council.
Haddad said that staff have contacted the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations about changing the status of hunting in the area. A no-shooting area is currently in effect for Penticton, which ultimately only allows for bow and arrow hunting. Changes may not be effective until the 2012 hunting season.
One glitch in allowing controlled public hunting will be the overlap between city bylaws and provincial legislation.
Haddad explained that the city has a bylaw to regulate or prohibit the discharge of firearms within city limits, which will have to be changed to allow for discharge on land zoned agricultural, parks and golf courses with a permit.
But the ministry’s regulations about firing in populated areas supersede city bylaws, the progress report notes.
The capture and cull element of the program also requires involvement from the province. The city must obtain a permit from the Forest Ministry to trap deer, and in the application, Penticton must identify how the trapping will occur, who will monitor the traps and where the traps will be placed. Haddad said Cranbrook hired a contractor to oversee monitoring. The ministry has also traps for use in culling, and can be transported to the area for a cost.
Staff are also reviewing various laws in existence that pertain to the issue: the Wildlife Act, firearms legislation and the city’s outdated firearms bylaw from 1988. The city will also have to draft a no deer feeding bylaw to be approved by council.
But the progress was not enough for Coun. Mike Pearce, who kick-started the debate in July with the original notice of motion calling for drastic measures to be taken to address aggressive deer in town.
“I’m not seeing any action,” he said.
Pearce told council about a phone message he received from an older female resident who said she lives alone, apart from the 14 deer that sleep in her yard all the time. The woman, who gets around with a cane, is “terrified” of the animals who won’t leave her property.
“This lady is terrified and waiting for this council to do something to take care of the issue,” he said.
This is the second time Pearce expressed his desire for the city to move quickly. He told council in August that he didn’t want changes to be bogged down in committee work; suggesting instead that the city “get the guys with the guns, or the bows and arrows or whatever we’ve got to be doing and let’s do this take out properly.”
On Monday, however, staff couldn’t offer any other news.
“We’re working with the ministry to make this happen as quickly as possible,” Haddad said. “Unfortunately, it’s not going to happen tomorrow.”
Mayor Dan Ashton suggested Okanagan hunters could help by keeping deer over-population in mind when heading into the bush this fall. While a controlled public hunt will not likely be in place, he said the current hunting season on Crown land could assist.
“We all know there are issues that need to be addressed on this,” he said. “There is a bit of a bureaucracy to go through with this.”
Haddad also said administrative work was underway to put educational information together for pamphlets and the city website, as well as investigating any costs associated with repellents residents can plant in their area. Volunteers are being groomed to monitor deer population numbers and stakeholder groups are being consulted.
He also said staff are compiling information from residents who are experiencing problem deer. Those looking to report where deer are located and how many can e-mail the city at firstname.lastname@example.org. A hotline will also be established in the future, he said.
— With files from Kristi Patton