A whitetail buck shows little fear of humans in Okanagan Falls.

Province to fund urban deer projects

Communities seek ways to neuter, chase away or kill aggressive, unhealthy deer to protect people and crops

The B.C. government has committed up to $100,000 a year to share costs of “urban deer management operations,” with an advisory committee to guide communities in reducing the risks and damage caused by deer.

The province is responsible for wildlife management, but the government wants solutions to be developed locally. Some communities have resorted to killing deer, with mixed success and sometimes intense local opposition, while others suggest birth control, relocation or “hazing” of deer using dogs to keep them away from communities.

A B.C. government fact sheet advises that if deer are to be killed, they should caught in traps that look like oversized hockey nets, then shot with a bolt gun at close range. Provincial staff can lend available equipment and issue permits to manage deer populations in or near urban areas, or develop hunting regulations for local situations.

Using dogs to chase deer is illegal under wildlife protection legislation, but a permit was issued to Kimberley to do a controlled trial in 2013. City council declared the trial a success, at a cost of $300 or more a day to deploy trained dogs and handlers.

Invermere council found itself embroiled in legal action brought by a group of opponents, despite a local survey that found more than 70 per cent public support for a deer cull. Invermere officials were dealing with complaints of aggressive deer, deer eating garbage and  appearing unhealthy, cougars encroaching on the community to prey on urban deer and deer deaths that appeared to be from unlawful action.

After multiple resolutions brought to the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in recent years, the province responded this week with the offer of funding and continued research. Municipalities must obtain permits from the forests ministry before attempting relocation, hazing, contraceptive measures that require handling of deer, or culls.

The advisory committee, not yet named, is to continue developing standardized methods, such as how to safely process and distribute meat from deer that are killed. In rural Central Saanich, permits have been issued to use shotguns or bows against deer to protect crops.

Another task for the committee will be to develop public consultation on methods of deer control, to head off protests, legal challenges and vigilante action.