February 04, 2014 - 1:37 PM
PENTICTON - Council got into an ankle-deep disagreement last night at city hall over the prospect of capturing and relocating mule deer.
A trial project to partner with the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and the Penticton Indian Band to capture and move urban mule deer survived a 4-2 vote with Coun. John Vassilaki and Katie Robinson opposed. Council capped whatever money will be spent on the project at $15,000.
Not seen at council was a small sculpture of a deer from an anonymous donor — apparently made out of deer droppings — that was perched on a city hall desk earlier that day.
The decision to do something about the deer comes after a long delay. Mayor Garry Litke said council was once discussing a possible culling of Penticton's urban mule deer but talk was put on hold until a court case involving the community of Invermere and an animal rights group was resolved. The B.C. courts ruled against the activists and declared the town was in its rights to find solutions for its wildlife issues.
Vassilaki wanted nothing to do with the capture and relocation plan.
"My wife would never forgive me if I voted in favour of getting rid of deer."
Robinson protested the decision for different reasons. "We are opening a Pandora's Box for the taxpayers," she said. "The deer are not going to stop coming. If we start with the deer where are we going to end? We have cougars, we have bears. All the more dangerous to the population than Bambi."
Litke said if the pilot project succeeds the costs could go down. The government can provide the traps and materials to the band and eventually the work could be cost-free for the city.
"We should not be passing up this opportunity to at least try it," he said. "In other communities they are culling the deer."
Litke explained the band has a pasture area on the reserve where the deer could be re-located and hopefully it will be a place they will stay.
Coun. Wesley Hopkin said that's what the trial project is for - to see if the plan can work.
The city will now issue a request-for-proposal for qualified contractors, with experience in capturing and moving urban deer, to take on the work and provide training for band members if necessary. Hopkin reminded everyone the city could still turn down the proposals if they are not to council's satisfaction.
Litke said Chief Jonathan Kruger is familiar with the traps and gear used by the ministry to relocate deer.
As for hunting the animals the mayor said band members are free to do what they are allowed on their own land.
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