KELOWNA - Service requests to deal with urban deer have jumped in the last two years and Kelowna is looking at what, if anything, should be done about it.
Parks service manager Blair Stewart, in a report to Kelowna council, says calls about the ubiquitous ungulates jumped from six in 2015 to 29 in 2016 and 32 last year.
Mule deer are the predominant species in the Central Okanagan, Stewart says, and anedotal evidence suggests their populations are increasing.
“Encroachment of new developments into natural areas may provide protection from natural predators,” Stewart writes. “Typically, predators such as coyotes, cougars, wolves and bears will not travel into dense subdivisions which provides deer with a ‘human shield’.”
Stewart says the majority of calls for service are coming from urban-wildland interface areas including Dilworth and Knox Mountains and the south Mission area.
Most calls relate to damage to lawns and gardens, he adds, but a couple of cases of deer acting aggressively towards pets have also been reported.
A petition has been submitted to Kelowna council asking it “create and implement a plan for the control of resident deer,” he writes.
He notes deer are protected under the Provincial Wildlife Act and any management of local populations would require provincial approval.
Some provincial money for urban deer management is available but would require a local plan, matching funding and a deer population estimate.
Stewart summarizes the deer control efforts of some other B.C. communities in the report, noting deer culls have always proven controversial, often facing legal challenges and are of unproven efficacy.
In the meantime, on the advice of the province, staff is recommending the Central Okanagan Regional District become a member of WildSafe B.C., described as an education program designed to reduce human-wildlife conflict.
Kelowna council will receive the urban deer report at the regular public meeting at 1:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 5.
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