October 07, 2016 - 2:30 PM
ENDERBY - A North Okanagan farmer is outraged after provincial authorities arrived at his property with a search warrant and shot down his herd of deer.
Richard Yntema, owner of Rivers Bend Fallow Deer Farm in the Enderby area, says roughly 20 people including conservation officers and provincial government employees came to his farm yesterday, Oct. 6, with a warrant to seize his 31 deer.
Yntema has farmed fallow deer, a breed that is non-native to the area, since 1991. Fallow deer, along with reindeer and bison, can be legally game-farmed in B.C. with a license. There are only ten licensed fallow deer game farms in B.C., and Yntema says he had a niche market selling meat to high-end restaurants and wineries in the Okanagan Valley.
But, due to compliance issues, Yntema’s license was not renewed last year.
“We’ve had issues with the regulatory side of things,” Yntema admits. “I was trying to move along and get them cleared up and fixed.”
The main issue as he understood it was inadequate fencing and concerns about the deer escaping from the enclosure — something he was trying to address.
He says authorities came to his farm with no notice and told him to keep back as they attempted to seize the 31 deer.
“They had no intentions of basically working with me after a point and they just came in here and wiped them out,” Yntema says.
He says the loss of the herd and all his breeding stock equates to a financial loss in the tens of thousands of dollars and wants someone held accountable.
“This was extremely heavy-handed,” he says.
The search warrant for Yntema’s property cites two offences under the Wildlife Act; failing to recover an escaped animal and unlawful possession of live wildlife. The warrant allowed conservation officers to seize the animals, however most of them ended up euthanized.
Provincial wildlife biologist Helen Schwantje says fallow deer are harder to handle than other breeds, and explains conservation officers could not get close enough to tranquilize many of them for relocation.
“Capturing them and moving them to another farm was the first objective, however without a proper facility, that was a big issue,” she says, explaining structures like chutes are required to round up the deer. “We attempted to dart and immobilize them, but these are really hyper-sensitive, flighty deer and even getting close to them was a challenge,” she says.
Two deer were successfully sedated and relocated to another farm, two were found dead and the remaining 27 were euthanized. Animals suitable for consumption will be distributed to food banks or First Nations, Schwantje says.
She says there have been violation issues at the farm for a number of years, and adds the owner was given many opportunities to comply, and to re-home the animals prior to action being taken.
“There have been a number of complaints by neighbours of these deer getting off the property. There has been property damage as well,” Schwantje says.
One of the concerns, she says, was deer escaping the property and establishing wild populations.
“Our concerns from a wildlife perspective were habitat damage and setting up a population that would become invasive and very difficult to control,” she says.
She says fallow deer populations have gotten out of control in other areas of the province, such as Mayne Island where it’s considered a crisis.
“The bottom line is government may have seemed to act harshly, but the cause was non-compliance. This gentleman could’ve dealt with this a lot sooner,” Schwantje says.
The Ministry of Environment is investigating the case and confirms the Conservation Service will be submitting a report to Crown Counsel to determine if charge approval is warranted.
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