The Regional District Okanagan Similkameen is in support of the latest recommendations put to the province regarding urban deer management.
The recommendations came out of a two-day workshop in January put on by the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) and the Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
One of the key issues is resources and funding from the province for a community engagement program using the Bear Smart program as an example, which has communities, individuals and businesses pool resources to provide preventative conservation measures and public education in communities.
The recommendations also look to the province to provide deer management information to local governments and lay a foundation for a deer management community of practice.
“When we took it to our board they were supportive of the recommendations and didn’t really add much else,” said Chief Administrative Officer of the RDOS Bill Newell. “They were just happy that the province was finally buckling down and trying to come up with a position on this.”
Newell said resources are a primary concern because the responsibility is increasing the workload of various departments.
It’s now up to the province how to move forward with the issue which has the number of complaints from residents rising in high-density areas.
“There is more and more deer and more and more people are getting concerned about safety for one thing, as well as safety for their pets as well as deer entering their yards and what they leave and what they eat,” Newell said.
“They were very clear at this workshop that the deer belong to them (the province), they are a provincial responsibility and they aren’t going to permit any local government to interfere with wildlife until they come up with a position.”
Newell said deer have always been an issue in residential areas, for the RDOS specifically in Kaleden and Okanagan Falls, however, it hasn’t been clear who the lead authority is.
“I think it would be helpful if we knew who the lead department was, they made it clear at this workshop it’s not the conservation officers, they’re just an enforcement mechanism. I believe it was FLNRO (Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations) that had the responsibility for wildlife management, so they are going to have to come up with a plan,” Newell said.
The recommendations come from leaders in various provincial departments involved in urban deer management and ask for a more co-ordinated approach working with relevant departments as well as First Nations groups and the SPCA.
“The province has some very knowledgable people who know about it, but they haven’t co-ordinated their efforts. It’s spread amongst a whole bunch of different departments,” Newell said.
While a co-ordinated effort would help organizational aspects and help with allocating resources, there is still the issue of urban deer at hand. That doesn’t have a clear-cut solution, according to Newell.
“There is no consensus on how to handle this. Some people are sympathetic to the deer and others just want them gone,” Newell said. “I think they (UBCM) were looking at more of an educational role rather then straight-out enforcement. A deer cull is not going to be a popular decision.”
Newell said there isn’t a clear timeline as to what the province’s response will be, but he’s not expecting a policy right away.
“If there is money attached to it, that would have to come in a future budget year, so I don’t really expect anything out of this immediately.”