Sunday, February 26, 2012

Court denies extension, cull moving forward

The District of Invermere has up until March 15 to cull up to 100 deer.
Echo File Photo
By Steve Jessel - Invermere Valley Echo
Published: February 25, 2012 2:00 PM
Updated: February 25, 2012 3:08 PM
Following an injunction, protests and an as of yet unresolved civil suit, it looks like Invermere's deer cull will be moving ahead after all.
On February 24, the Supreme Court of British Columbia denied a request from the Invermere Deer Protection Organization (IDPO) to extend an injunction that has halted the proposed cull of 100 deer since February 9.
"We're happy that a further injunction has not been granted," District of Invermere (DOI) mayor Gerry Taft said. "It's been a frustrating process that involved a lot of time and energy on the parts of council and the DOI, as well as time and money with our legal council in Vancouver. We're hoping to start (the cull) as soon as possible... there will be traps set tonight."
The cull was first agreed upon at a DOI meeting in August of 2011, which at the time also included a plan to relocate some of the town deer to other areas. The details of how the relocation would happen have yet to be settled, and the district had applied for and received a cull permit over the winter.
"We haven't given up yet," Vince Zurbriggen of the IDPO said. "(We're hoping) that some sense will prevail. Some people very much believe that this is not right, to just kill animals because we made a mistake — there should be better ways, and this is a very drastic way. Killing 100 deer will not solve the problem."
The IDPO sprung up just before the cull was set to move forward, and is described as a grass-roots organization whose objective is to "protect wildlife and find humane solutions to any kind of problems that arise with them," according to organization president Devin Kazakoff. Among their issues with the cull included the fact that they felt there was not enough public consultation prior to the cull being approved, and the group has been vocal in their advocacy of alternative measures, including contraceptives and relocation.
The cull has dominated discussion in the community in the recent months, with a number of Facebook groups both for and against the cull gaining hundreds of members, leading to some nasty comments from both sides amid the discussion.
"It's a big issue, and the worst of it is that it has pulled the town apart," Zurbriggen said. "It pits people against each other so badly."
Despite the IDPO's best efforts, the district now has up until March 15 to proceed with the cull. Taft says that while the district has a permit to cull up to 100 deer, it's unlikely that they will be able to reach that number due to time constraints, as a recent cull in Kimberley took about two months to reach a similar goal.
"One thing that we're concerned about is potential vandalism to the traps, or any kind of civil disobedience from people who feel really strongly on the issue," Taft said. "I think it's really important for people to take into account their own safety... there have been Facebook suggestions of people chasing deer out of town with their dogs to avoid having the deer be captured, and on the surface that seems a potentially very dangerous idea."
"When this cull is over we'd like to work with everyone, including members of the IDPO, to work on all the other options to make sure that another cull doesn't have to happen. At this point we're asking for co-operation and that people don't 'take things into their own hands' — it's gone through the process, and it's gone through court system and it's time to accept that this is the course that we're going until March 15. After that point, we can explore all the other options."
While this appears to conclude this chapter of the debate, the future may well bring more difficulties for both Taft and the DOI. According to Zurbriggen, one woman who has strenuously objected to the cull from the very beginning is now seriously considering a hunger strike in protest, despite his best efforts to convince her otherwise. Also, while Zurbriggen has not had contact with the IDPO's lawyers since the decision, Taft said his legal council was "left with the impression" that the IDPO and their lawyers would likely appeal the latest decision. Finally, looming is the civil suit against the district by members of the IDPO which likely will not be heard by the courts until June, again according to Taft, meaning this is likely not the last we hear of this constantly-evolving story.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Citizens committee on deer backed at regional meeting

By Kim Westad, Times Colonist February 23, 2012

A citizens advisory committee will be set up to gather information on all ways to deal with deer in the region and will be asked to make finding options for agricultural communities its first priority.
Three farmers will be on the 12-member advisory committee that will examine the issue, which is causing concern in most of the region's 13 municipalities.
The recommendation, made Wednesday by the region's planning, transportation and protective services committee, has to be ratified by the capital regional district board.
The committee heard impassioned pleas on all sides of the issue.
Several strong requests were made by farmers, who did not necessarily advocate for a deer cull, but outlined the threat that the proliferation of deer is to their livelihood, food security and production on Vancouver Island.
"The farmers here today are the last of your major farms for your food sustainability in the greater Victoria region. We are a dying breed," said Ray Galey.
The issue is not a cosmetic one for farmers, but one of making a living or not, said Wendy Fox, on behalf of Saanich Peninsula farmers. Farmers are limited in what they can do to scare off deer. Some municipalities allow farmers to kill five deer a year, but that barely touches the problem, said Fox, who said it is common to find 15 in a field at a time. Farmers can use noise pistols for half an hour each day, but that aggravates neighbours who call police and then advocate boycotting farmers who use them, Fox said.
"The deer population desperately needs to be reduced to a manageable number," Fox said. "Already farmers are not growing some crops because they will never make it to market."
Unless the problem is dealt with, there will be a substantial decrease in the amount of produce on the Saanich Peninsula, she said. "This is not a threat. It is a reality."
As well, more farmers will let fields lie fallow rather than plant them and lose them to the deer in an afternoon.
Terry Michell said they have farmhands working until 3 a.m., driving around the fields and shooing deer from one field to another.
The urban deer issue is much different than the agricultural deer issue, said Ryan Vantreight.
"Going out to the park and seeing a deer is a beautiful thing. But when we see the deer in our fields, it's like seeing someone breaking into your car. Our crops are being vandalized or lost or stolen by the deer," Vantreight said.
"Today is not about whether we kill the deer or move them. Today is about whether we do something or not. Please do something."
Several other speakers addressed the committee, most advocating for deer to be left alone. Some said the issue has been blown out of proportion by politicians and a "media frenzy. "
"Thou shalt not cull," said Anthony Rose.
Liz White, of the Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada, came from Ontario for the meeting. White said she supported the development of a deer management strategy as long as the process is "open, transparent fair and unbiased." The citizens group must have equal representation from those who are "pro-" and "anti-" deer, she said, and the expert advisory committee must be balanced as well.
The CRD committee said it is clear the urban deer issue is different and less pressing than the agricultural issue. The citizens committee, if approved, will be struck by the CRD and will have a range of people as well as an expert committee. They will study the issue and present findings and options to the CRD board, which will make a decision.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Citizen committee could decide fate of deer

By KIM WESTAD, February 18, 2012

If created, the citizen committee would consider a range of options to deal with the region’s burgeoning deer population.

If created, the citizen committee would consider a range of options to deal with the region’s burgeoning deer population.

Photograph by: Lyle Stafford ,

A citizen committee should investigate ways to deal with the region's burgeoning deer population and should consider everything from the status quo to a cull, says a Capital Regional District report.
The CRD planning, transportation and protective services committee that deals with the controversial deer issue will decide on the recommendation Wednesday.
Chairman John Ranns likes the idea of a group of informed citizens gathering the information, expertise and opinions from the public, which, he said, has "very strong feelings" on the deer issue.
"We need citizen engagement, and we need to be clear on the realities of each choice — no airy fairy stuff," said Ranns, who is also mayor of Metchosin.
If the recommendation is accepted, the 12-person citizen committee would be selected and asked to have its regional deer management strategy report prepared by the end of July. The members would work with an expert committee, including parks ecologists, veterinarians, agrologists, biologists and others who have previously worked in deer management, as well as CRD staff.
The CRD board would ultimately decide on the strategy put in place, but it will take much of its direction from the information gleaned by the citizen committee.
The region has been struggling to find a way to deal with the Columbian black-tailed deer that have become commonplace, munching on flowers in the core municipalities, trotting down city streets and destroying thousands of dollars of crops on several Saanich Peninsula farms.
There are about 50,000 deer on Vancouver Island. And although the number of deer seen in urban areas seems to have risen, it doesn't mean they're flocking to the city. A senior biologist told the CRD that the numbers are on the rise because the deer that are already in the city areas are thriving and reproducing and don't have predators.
The citizen committee will have its work cut out for it. The deer concerns vary depending on the municipality. On the Peninsula, it's an economic issue. Crops and livelihoods can be destroyed in an afternoon by a group of deer. In the core, people are more concerned about the impact on their gardens and about deer being run over on busy streets.
The committee will be asked to provide options — ranging from "hazing and frightening techniques" to deer birth control to culling — for each problem.
Some argue the deer are causing little more than cosmetic harm and that people should be able to deal with that. To others, such as ICBC, they cost money. ICBC data show reported 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.
"Although it sounds cruel, the reality is that, in some ways, there is a cull going on now through automobile accidents," said Geoff Young, chairman of the CRD and a Victoria councillor.
"There is not just death, but also suffering on the part of the animals, as well as danger to people who hit them."

Friday, February 17, 2012

Invermere Injunction

Invermere ordered to put brakes on cull

By Joshua Estabrooks
Pioneer Staff
A group of deer lovers has taken legal action to halt the cull of 100 of Invermere’s urban deer population.
Opponents to the cull succeeded in putting a temporary stop to the cull process last week, when they served an injunction from the Supreme Court to the district that prevents the cull from going ahead until at least February 24th.
The injunction was sought by and successfully granted to the Invermere Deer Protection Organization, a group of residents opposed to the cull. The organization, along with Invermere resident Shane Suman, are the official names on the court documents.
The injunction is part of a larger lawsuit which is challenging the validity of two bylaws, passed in August of 2011 and January of 2012, the first authorizing the cull to go ahead and the second hiring the contractor to carry out the cull, said Vancouver-based lawyer Rebeka Breder of Boughton Law Corporation, who will be representing the Invermere Deer Protection Organization.
Damages for nuisance are also being sought by a number of those opposed, as the impending cull has allegedly caused some residents a significant amount of distress, the effects of which include sleeplessness, loss of appetite, nightmares, and in some cases symptoms of secondary trauma effect.
The bylaw challenges are based on the opinion that council did not consult with the public enough prior to making their decision, and that the bylaws were passed based on insufficient information and possibly even just copied from the processes that took place in Kimberley and Cranbrook, both towns where deer culls were recently completed, Ms. Breder said.
“Animal cruelty is a part we are looking into as well,” she added. “There is definitely a potential for the argument that the district is in violation of cruelty legislation, whether it’s the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act or the Wildlife Act,” she said.
The injunction was personally delivered to the district office on Thursday, February 9th, by spokesman for the Invermere Deer Protection Organization, Vince Zurbriggen, who said that he feels the conclusions reached by the original deer committee were not based on accurate, factual information.
“The deer committee should be people who know and have the expertise to advise council. They were supposed to investigate what can be done but they didn’t. They went for the easiest solution, which is a cull,” Mr. Zurbriggen said.
Also speaking against the cull, resident Shane Suman said that he feels a cull should be the last resort, not the first strategy adopted by the district in response to the deer issue.
“We said killing the deer is an irreversible solution. Once it is done you can’t bring them back. We have been living with them for decades, so we asked for a temporary stop to it,” he said.
“We’re not asking for a permanent cancellation or anything, so we can get together as a whole community and address the issues that people bring up. We know there are problems — people talk about aggressive deer or deer sometimes eating plantations and vegetable gardens — and we are willing to listen to the concerns and find solutions to the concerns,” he added.
By his interpretation of the results from a survey that was conducted in Invermere to gather public opinion about the deer cull, Mr. Suman said he believes that people want solutions, but they don’t want the deer killed carte blanche.
“They want solutions. How the problem is solved is not their concern, they just want a solution to the problem,” Mr. Suman said. “We are looking for something that is cost-effective, something that will be more permanent and long-term and something the whole community can feel united about and not divided.”
Explaining why he got involved in the issue, Mr. Suman said he and his wife, Monie, moved to the valley a year-and-a-half ago, and were instantly enamoured with the deer that live within the town.
He acknowledged that he is the same Shane Suman who was recently found guilty, along with his wife, of insider trading by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and ordered to pay over $4 million dollars in fines and profits, but stated that the issues are completely unrelated, and he has nothing to hide in relation to the case.
Mr. Suman is also the driving force behind a Facebook group dedicated to opposing the cull, so he said if he was trying to hide from his other legal troubles he wouldn’t be putting himself out there in the public eye.
“I am here, everyone knows where I am and if someone was trying to get away they wouldn’t be exposing themselves like this,” Mr. Suman said.
The ultimate goal of the injunction and lawsuit isn’t simply to stall the process until the permit issued by the province runs out on March 15th, he said. If the district wants to come back to the discussion table, the Invermere Deer Protection Organization would be willing to end the court battle.
“Going to the court was our last option,” Mr. Suman said. “We have tried every other avenue to convince mayor and council to put a temporary halt [to the cull] so we have time to negotiate, discuss and find a solution outside of court, but it is their stubbornness and refusal to discuss anything other than killing the deer which forced us to go down this path.
“If at any time the district wants to talk to us we are open and we are going to go back to our original proposal. We can discuss solutions and come together as a community.”
In terms of the case itself, the challenge could be the first of its kind in the province, and possibly even Canada, Ms. Breder said. As of press time she had not yet met with the district’s counsel, who were not consulted prior to the injunction being filed.
If the district were to be successful in having the injunction removed, there would be an opportunity to appeal the decision. As well, the lawsuit could take months to resolve.
The district’s court costs will come out of taxpayer’s pockets, while costs for retaining the lawyer for the Invermere Deer Protection Organization, which could reach upwards of tens of thousands of dollars, will be paid for out of the pockets of the members of the organization, Mr. Suman said.
Responding to the injunction, the District of Invermere are engaging their regular lawyers from Vancouver-based firm, Young Anderson, and are unable to comment in too much detail while the court battle is taking place, Mayor Gerry Taft said.
“Basically, we’re looking to have the injunction set aside. That’s our immediate goal. A lot of their claims I really question and I am quite troubled with some of the things they brought up. I think some of their statements are bordering on slanderous and in some cases are inaccurate,” Mr. Taft said.
“It’s a challenge because the petition, and the petitioners, are 14 people, and it’s frustrating that 14 people could have such a huge influence on a decision. Hopefully it doesn’t result in a lot of legal costs. It is disappointing.”
Mayor Taft added that council has yet to receive any official communication from the Invermere Deer Protection Organization expressing a desire to work together.
“From my personal perspective, when you sue the town and make a lot of claims, that’s not a sign of wanting to work together,” he said.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Peninsula farmers want their say on regional deer strategy

While the Capital Regional District looks at deer management, farmers in Central Saanich want local government to voice the rural concern.
Peninsula farmer Wendy Fox brought a petition to the district Monday night asking that council speak up on behalf of the farmers.
"It's come to the point now where it's a financial hardship for a lot of the farmers on the Peninsula," Fox said. "There's a difference between rural dear and urban deer problems. There are probably going to be recommendations that they're handled in different ways."
In November, CRD staff were asked to start work on a deer management plan and report back early in the new year. The CRD has heard from many segments of the community including those in agriculture. Most recently members of DeerSafe Victoria asked that they be included in the discussion.
Fox was representing a group of farmers in the region, who met in August to discuss possible solutions to the increasing deer population.
"This is a serious matter that must be dealt with if sustainable farming is to continue on the Saanich Peninsula," Fox said. "The deer population are threatening the future food chain in the Capital region.”
Central Saanich representatives plan to address the issue during the Feb. 22 CRD committee meeting.
At Coun. Adam Olsen's suggestion, council will also craft a resolution for Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities to  also request that the province reinstate fence funding as part of an environmental plan for farming.
"It's at least one step of lobbying that we can do to help farmers take their own steps to mitigate deer," agreed Mayor Alastair Bryson.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Contact DeerSafe at:

Citizens' group wants non-lethal solution to Greater Victoria deer problem

As the discussion about urban deer in the Capital Region heats up, some area residents are asking to be a part of the problem-solving process.
In a letter to the Capital Regional District board last week, members of DeerSafe Victoria asked that they be included in any CRD deer management subcommittee that may form.
Though there has been plenty of attention paid to frustrated residents who support a cull, members of DeerSafe feel that the voices of those who want a more humane solution haven't been given as much coverage.
"We acknowledge the issues, but we know that there are non-lethal ways of dealing with these so-called pest animals," said Kelly Carson, one of the group's founding members.
DeerSafe is not a group of "tree huggers" who simply think the deer should be left alone, she said. "We're just all working together for a common goal, and that's to find a long-term, sustainable solution."
Of particular concern to the group is the potential use of Clover traps and bolt guns to capture and trap and get rid of the deer, a measure taken in communities like Cranbrook and Kimberley.
"(The city claims) it's humane, yet they won't let the SPCA come in and observe it," Carson said. "That's a really big concern for us."
Instead, she said, the CRD should be looking at things such as improved fencing, wildlife corridors, immuno-contraceptives to control local deer reproduction rates, and increased citizen education.
"One of the biggest problems for deer entering urban areas is that people feed them. There needs to be a large education component to deer management going into the future."
That sentiment is echoed by one of DeerSafe's allies.
"In virtually every situation where there is conflict (over deer), and people are complaining, it's because somebody, or a number of people are actively feeding the animals," said Liz White, a founding member of the Ottawa-based Animal Alliance of Canada.
White, who has been involved in similar situations across Canada, most recently in London, Ont., said eliminating the active feeders and erecting proper fencing are the best strategies for reducing the problems caused by urban deer.
But taking an even-handed approach is key, she added.
"If we can begin to look at the situation from a less politically charged position, then I think we can have some rational discussions about how to resolve it."
Bolt guns should not be a part of that discussion, she added. "Veterinarians everywhere – Australia, Britain, the United States – every single one says that if you use a penetrating captive bolt gun, there is no guarantee that the animals are going to die immediately."
DeerSafe members have asked to speak at the next meeting of the CRD's planning, transportation and protective services committee, which takes place Feb. 22.
The committee's chair, Metchosin Mayor John Ranns, said that although there is no deer management subcommittee yet, he would be happy to have input from residents.
"I would certainly welcome anyone that could come up with a non-lethal solution, because I still have my doubts about what's acceptable in urban areas," he said.
White plans to attend the meeting and hopes to spend a couple days beforehand touring the area and getting a feel for where the problem spots are.
She promises that if the CRD decides to go ahead with a cull, she will be back.
"We'll bring a camera and show people what a truck full of deer with their brains bashed in looks like."
Tools of the trade
• A Clover trap, named for its inventor from the 1950s, is essentially a steel-framed rectangular cage, sometimes covered with strong netting. Bait is placed at the rear of the cage, and for the deer to get it, it engages a trip line which shuts the door and prevents it from escaping.
• A bolt gun is frequently used in slaughterhouses to stun animals prior to slaughter. They are available in penetrating or non-penetrating varieties.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

To the CRD February 1, 2012

February 1, 2012
Councillor Geoff Young
Chair, CRD Board of Directors

Dear Councillor Young:

By way of introduction, DeerSafe Victoria is a newly formed group of concerned Greater Victoria area residents who support safe, ethical and rational approaches to reducing and preventing deer-human conflict, and who strongly oppose a deer cull. We also stand firmly against the clovertrap/boltgun cull method which has been imported into our province from Helena, Montana, a method denounced by many respected wildlife scientists, veterinarians and the Humane Society of the United States as cruel and inhumane.

In his New Year’s message Governor General David Johnston called on Canadians to “build a smarter more caring Canada…” We understand that there are some challenges that arise when deer and humans share the same living space, but there are smarter, more caring ways to resolve those issues. It is up to us to seek practical ways to overcome co-existence issues in a responsible way.

We at DeerSafe Victoria have local, provincial and national support and request consultation in decisions being made by the CRD regarding deer management issues. We welcome any opportunity to participate as members of an Urban Deer Committee, to present reasoned and compassionate alternatives. Victoria, as capital of British Columbia, has an opportunity to set the standard in wildlife stewardship in our province and be an example to other municipalities throughout BC.

A representative from our group will be contacting you to arrange a meeting, prior to the next Planning, Transportation and Protective Services Committee meeting on February 22, 2012.

Kelly Carson
Jordan Reichert
Sheila Carroll