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Sharing our city with deer

Image Credit: Compilation/Jennifer Stahn
March 19, 2015 - 8:36 AM

People throughout Kamloops have experienced deer in their gardens or when they out walking in parks, in the hills, or along the river. Our city is so large and spread out, it seems that there is space for people and deer to live side by side harmoniously. I hope the harmony continues, because once deer are seen as a “problem”, thoughts often turn to a cull. That is, killing off the urban deer.

The City of Oak Bay is just the latest B.C. community to consider a deer cull to deal with unwanted ungulates. As well as destroying gardens they view as a ready source of food, the municipality also says they are a hazard to vehicles and have attacked pets and people. Another problem cited by Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Ministry is that deer attract predators, including cougars.

Permission for a cull must be granted by the province, but the bigger issue is opposition to the cull. Animal rights groups believe there are other options, starting with having people deer-proof their gardens so there is less attractants for the deer. They also want more signage to alert drivers of the risk of deer.

Other B.C. communities, including Cranbrook, Kimberley and Invermere, have had culls in the last few years. All faced opposition from local residents. There were legal challenges. In some cases, vandalism was done in an effort to stop the culls. Cranbrook held a referendum which resulted in 70 per cent of voters supporting the cull, but that did not lessen the opposition.

Penticton considered a deer cull and also a deer relocation program, but in the end abandoned both ideas and are working with homeowners to make gardens less attractive to deer.

Meanwhile, here in Kamloops time will tell whether there will be a need for a deer cull. It will be as much about the number of deer in Kamloops as it will be about how accepting people are of having urban deer share the city with them.

One saving grace for the deer is the amount of wildlife interfaces there are in Kamloops. Being strung out along the Thompson Rivers, everywhere in Kamloops is relatively close to wild spaces. The surrounding hills provide pastures for the deer, while the creeks and rivers in town provide a source of water. Perhaps as long as the deer can move between the hills and the water, they will be relatively benign.

I certainly hope we don’t get to the point where an urban deer cull is contemplated. It’s a difficult decision for every city which considers it, and it would be equally difficult in Kamloops.

— Nancy Bepple is a recovering politician and local news junkie. She expects she will never recover from her love of the banjo.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
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