By Kate Irwin
Invermere council will not seek a second deer cull until the results of the lawsuit against the municipality are known and the public have been further consulted, mayor Gerry Taft has stated.
With a lawsuit looming in late January and no further solutions put forward by the province for management of Invermere’s urban deer population, the District of Invermere has no current plans for further action to control the number of deer in town, he added.
“There is definitely no desire to apply for any cull permits or take any action pre-lawsuit,” Mayor Taft said. “The outcome of the lawsuit dictates how we will proceed with deer management afterwards.”
Devin Kazakoff, president of the Invermere Deer Protection Society, which is suing the district, confirmed the group will be moving ahead with their trial against the District of Invermere. The court date is set for January 30th and the group is seeking public donations to help fund their legal action.
“We’re setting out to dismiss the bylaw put in place in August 2011 to reduce deer numbers in town to 50,” Mr. Kazakoff said. “We challenge how [council] came to the conclusion that we need to reduce their population.”
The group, established in January 2012 in reaction to the planned 100-animal deer cull, is also seeking to have recommendations adopted by council from Invermere’s Urban Deer Advisory Committee thrown out by a judge. These recommendations included a trap and cull program, relocation of deer during spring 2012, and an ultimate goal of reducing the urban deer population in Invermere to 50 deer by 2014.
“A lot of residents love the deer and want to see them protected,” Mr. Kazakoff said.
If animals must be removed from the community, his group proposes non-lethal solutions, including relocation and driving the animals out of town with trained dogs. Neither solution is currently permitted by the province of British Columbia.
The news the lawsuit will continue comes shortly after a volunteer group concluded the third deer count of the year to establish population figures. The number of animals recorded ranged from 185 the first weekend to 220 on the second count, with numbers dropping to 148 on the final weekend.
The discrepancy in numbers from the final count was likely due to poor weather, said Stan Markham, a member of the Urban Deer Advisory Committee involved in the count.
“We did three counts on consecutive Saturdays in November,” he added. “The figures were pretty much what we were expecting … The method of counting we use fairly accurately ensures no animals are counted twice.”
The numbers will be used to determine the biological and cultural carrying capacity of deer in Invermere, Mr. Markham explained.
The biological carrying capacity is the maximum deer population that the environment within the District of Invermere can sustain indefinitely. The cultural carrying capacity is the maximum number of animals the human population will tolerate — a point of some debate between the municipality and the group bringing the lawsuit against them.
Members of the Invermere Deer Protection Society were invited along to observe the final count on November 24th. In the past, the group has publicly criticized the method of conducting the count and the necessity behind it.
“We don’t agree that counting the deer is necessarily the way to go,” Mr. Kazakoff said. “They don’t have an objective as to why they are doing the count.
“We also question the methods of counting: it’s not accurate at all.”
The deer count was carried out by a total of 38 volunteers, who were paired up and each given one of seven areas of town to survey deer numbers in. The Wilder subdivision was found to have the largest numbers of mule deer, with the only whitetail deer spotted in CastleRock Estates and Athalmer.
Volunteers drove every street and alley in Invermere over a two-hour period, counting by foot in areas inaccessible by vehicle, and noted down the species, gender and age of animals spotted. But the deer protection society president argues that counting by vehicle does not produce accurate results.
Mr. Markham agrees that the counters will not see each and every animal, as participants do not enter backyards or crawl down into gullies to check for animals there, but said that this only serves to slightly underestimate numbers of deer in town.
“You can be relatively certain that we never over-count; there are always more deer than we see on the days of the count,” he said. “When counting the borders of each area, the groups walk the boundary together. It makes the possibility of counting animals twice very minimal.”
The Invermere Deer Protection Society, which claims on its website to speak for “the people of Invermere” is vehemently opposed to the killing of any deer and has publicly criticized Invermere’s mayor and council for what they say was inadequate public consultation before the original deer cull took place.
Mayor Taft counters that when the public were consulted via survey in January 2011, little negative feedback was received from the community, indicating that the protection group may not speak for the majority of residents.
“Going forward, a public survey or referendum is key because this is such a heated topic,” he said. “I think the direction has to come from residents, then the responsibility for decisions is one shared by the whole community.”