Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Deer cull on CRD radar for 2012

By Kim Westad, Times Colonist

Revamping complex documents, finding consensus among 13 disparate municipalities, trying to get both the federal and provincial government to commit funding for sewage treatment - that's the easy stuff for the Capital Regional District board in 2012.
Well, easy when compared to the other major issue staring at the board - how to deal with the number of deer in the region.
Board chairman Geoff Young never says the word "cull" in a year-end interview, but it's clear the board will have to decide whether to have a limited one.
"We will have to make some decision, even if it is to do nothing," Young said. "I suspect we will be forced to make a decision to take some action. I'm pretty sure we're going to be moving forward - and I'm pretty sure it will be controversial and that we won't have agreement."
When asked directly if the CRD will consider a cull, Young said: "It appears that is the direction we are being led toward."
Several other municipalities in the province have instituted limited culls, including Cranbrook and Kimberley. Cranbrook has permits to trap and euthanize 25 deer this winter. The deer are trapped in a large net structure, and then killed the same way livestock are. The meat is donated as food.
It's estimated there are about 50,000 deer on Vancouver Island, with more lazily roaming urban areas than in the past.
ICBC data show deer related motor-vehicle collisions in CRD municipalities have increased by an average of 13 per cent a year since 2000, growing to more than 100 collisions in 2010 from 35 reported in 2000. Provincewide, animal related insurance claims rose to $30.8 million in 2007 from $15.8 million in 1997. Biologists say urban deer are thriving and reproducing.
The issue of a limited cull has been brought up at CRD meetings by former Central Saanich mayor Jack Mar, who has seen farmers' crops decimated in an afternoon by deer.
It's a hot-button issue for board members and the public. After one news story about the deer problem, the CRD received more than 400 unsolicited emails and letters. Public consultation will be a part of the decisionmaking process, Young said.
After that, drawing up a new regional sustainability strategy - basically the overall development plan for the entire region - might seem easy.
The strategy will be the new version of the current regional growth strategy, adopted in 2003. The strategy is defined as an agreement on social, economic and environmental goals for the region. It defines where development and growth should happen.
The CRD is revamping the document this year and renaming it the Regional Sustainability Strategy. It will reflect the goals of each municipality, and all must agree on it for it to be adopted. "I suspect we will indeed see some good debate," Young said.
Conflicts between the regional plan and individual municipal community plans happened several times in 2011. Part of that conflict is the result of imprecise language in the current document, Young said.
"The language of the document doesn't specify the precise nature of every kind of development that could take place. It tends to be more general. As we go forward, people will be more aware of the potential for future conflict, and there will be an effort made to be more precise and to lay down in more exact terms where developments will and will not take place," Young predicted.
Secondary sewage treatment remains in limbo, although Young hopes that will change early in the new year. The provincial government mandated treatment of the region's sewage, which is currently shot out into the ocean via pipes. The CRD has worked on developing a plan for years, submitting its final plan last year to the province. It was approved, but the funding hasn't come through.
The project is estimated to cost $782 million, to be shared equally among the CRD, the province and the federal government. But the province is saying the feds must commit first. Federal officials say that was never the expectation or an established practice.
"Putting it bluntly," Young said, "the provincial government is in a budget crunch and they're finding it difficult. We're not in a position where we can start doing any design work or anything else without that funding."


Friday, December 16, 2011


It's only taken a week, and Cranbrook's urban deer cull is almost complete.Contractor Carmen Purdy set up the traps on Tuesday, December 6 and already 20 of the 25 deer the permit allows have been captured. He expects it will be over by Saturday, December 17.Councillor Bob Whetham said he is surprised the cull has happened so quickly."The permit did allow the trapping to go on for several months. But it's being done at one time and quite quickly. In many ways that's fine: let's do it and see what we have accomplished," said Whetham.The province has granted the City of Cranbrook a permit to euthanize up to 25 mule or whitetail deer within the city limits.The Ministry of Forests, Land and Natural Resource Operations has provided 10 clover traps, a bolt gun and a sled for the cull. The city has allocated $13,000 for the contractor and the dressing of the meat, which is being given to the local Food Bank.Purdy was hired last month after stepping down as chair of the city's deer committee."He was the one who went down to Helena to observe how their program was operating," said Whetham.Cranbrook has modelled its deer cull strategy on Helena, Montana. Now in its third year of culls, Helena euthanized 200 deer the first year, around 40 the next year and 20 this year. It has set a maximum urban deer population of 9.6 deer per square kilometre.Here, a deer count in November 2010 found there are 3.7 deer per square kilometre. Kimberley's deer count last fall found an average of 20 deer per square kilometre."The goal was to focus on the resident herds - and I think there are two or three of them where we have had incidents of aggression. That was really the focus of the whole exercise," said Whetham. "It wasn't the large number but we do have problem deer in that area where they have been born in town, they have grown up here, they have become habituated to people and pets and they can be quite aggressive."An infamous video shot on Baker Hill in 2010 shows a whitetail doe stomping on a dog when it felt its fawn was threatened.Whetham said surprisingly, the traps have caught just as many whitetail as mule deer."We've caught nine whitetail and eleven mule deer," he said, adding that the goal was to target mule deer.The traps are set on Baker Hill and near 2nd Street South and Victoria Avenue - right in the centre of town where mule deer are seen more often."Whitetail and mule deer have slightly different habits. I think what's happened is those habits are not matching up with quite what we expected," said Whetham."The mule deer tend to be more active during the day time. Now, the traps are set at night. So I think what's happening is we're getting more of the whitetail population that the mule deer population - proportionately larger than we had hoped."There have been incidents (of aggression) involving whitetail deer as well."The clover traps are humane, Whetham explained. They look like a large wire cage. After dark, bait is set inside the cage. When a deer walks in, the cage closes behind them. The next morning, before dawn, Purdy checks the trap. If there is a deer inside, he pulls a pin which collapses the trap on top of the deer. He then uses a bolt gun to euthanize the deer."The whole process is very quick. I understand that from the time the contractor arrives with the truck and puts the carcass in and drive away again can be as little as five minutes," said Whetham.The deer is taken to a butcher, dressed, and donated to the Food Bank. It has also been offered to the St. Mary's Indian Band and the Salvation Army.The cull is controversial, Whetham agreed, but the community has shown its support for the cull."I know there are people here in town who are not happy with this at all - and they have certainly told me - but the message we got from the community through our surveys was that yes, they want something done, they are concerned, and that is the way council is proceeding."Once the cull is complete, the deer committee will meet and review the program, then report back to council."It is an ongoing program now. It's not something we do once and then walk away and assume it's not something we'll have to deal with again for a long time. It's an ongoing management problem and we'll have to see how to do it best."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Globe and Mail Cranbrook Cull


A police officer in Helena, Montana, baits a clover trap. The town of Cranbrook, B.C., recently procured 10 similar traps to use as part of its deer management program. - A police officer in Helena, Montana, baits a clover trap. The town of Cranbrook, B.C., recently procured 10 similar traps to use as part of its deer management program. | Handout

Nuisance Wildlife

These nets stop deer, not pucks

VICTORIA— From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

To the untrained eye, the custom-made “clover traps” that arrived in Cranbrook earlier this month could easily be mistaken for oversized hockey nets.
But instead of stopping pucks, they’re meant to capture marauding urban deer that have become a nuisance and a safety hazard in the Kootenay town in recent years.

    Measuring about two metres long, 1.5 metres high and a metre deep, the collapsible, mesh-covered cages are the key to a ground-breaking deer cull program that received final approval from the provincial government last week.

    City of Cranbrook spokesman Chris Zettel said the devices will be baited with fruit, domestic animal feed and other treats that attract urban-dwelling deer.
    “When the deer start feeding, they set off a little trap string that drops the door behind them, often in the middle of the night,” Mr. Zettel said. “Then when the contractors show up in the morning, they pull the pins and the top collapses down on the deer.”

    The first B.C. municipality to receive a provincial permit to capture and kill deer inside its city limits, Cranbrook modelled its deer-cull program after a similar initiative in Helena, Mont., where close to 500 animals have been removed from a 28-square-kilometre area of the state capital over the last three years.

    Once trapped, animals are killed with a bolt gun, “the same type of device that’s used to kill livestock in a slaughterhouse,” Mr. Zettel said.

    The carcasses will be taken to a local butcher shop that specializes in game meat and “processed essentially into hamburger,” he said.

    The meat will be offered to a local program for homeless first nations people, and leftovers will go to the local food bank for distribution, he said.

    Cranbrook’s deer control efforts were prompted by a series of high-profile incidents in 2010, including a disturbing video of a deer stomping on a local dog that went viral on YouTube, and an attack on a local newspaper carrier.

    Kimberley and Invermere have also applied for deer cull permits due to concerns that the region’s robust population of white-tailed deer poses an increasing threat to human safety. Last June, a Kimberly woman was injured by an aggressive doe while trying to stop the animal from attacking her dog in her yard.

    Over the summer, Cranbrook and the provincial Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, the agency responsible for deer control, agreed to share the cost of a deer management pilot project.

    The ministry anted up $15,000 for equipment, including 10 deer traps, two bolt guns and a plastic sled for carting away the carcasses. The municipality has budgeted $13,000 to cover the cost of deer-control contractors and processing the meat.

    Mr. Zettel said Cranbrook has permission to remove 25 deer from “several problem herds in town where we’ve had the most problems. A lot of them are fourth- or fifth-generation animals that have become accustomed to the lack of predators and the abundant food sources in the city.”

    Earlier this month, officials from Cranbrook travelled to Montana to meet with a retired police officer who runs Helena’s deer control program, said Troy McGee, Helena’s police chief.

    “They ordered some traps and when they came down to pick them up, he helped put them together and showed them how everything works,” Chief McGee said, adding that the meat from Helena’s deer-cull program “is in high demand.”

    Mr. Zettel said Cranbrook expects to have a deer control contractor in place by the end of the month and, following a brief training period, begin culling deer in early December.

    Rocket net/ captive bolt method