Thursday, June 26, 2014

Minisry of Transportation Ready to Take on Ungulates in the Kootenays

Wildlife detection system to be tested on Highway 3

The corridor between Cranbrook, Fernie, Sparwood and the Alberta border is “Ground Zero” for collisions with wildlife in B.C.
And a new high-tech wildlife detection systems will be tested on Highway 3 between Fort Steele and the Alberta border to better warn motorists about the potential for collisions.
Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, announced the testing of the new technology at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday at the Heritage Inn in Cranbrook.
“We recognized that one of the leading causes of collisions in B.C. is the high prevalence of wildlife on many corridors, and nowhere greater than here in the Kootenays,” Stone said. “In fact, the Cranbrook-Fernie-Sparwood (corridor) is pretty much Ground Zero for some of the highest rates of collisions in the province.
“Amongst a number of other initiatives which we’re going to move forward with, like fencing and more LED signs and so forth, we decided we’re going to pilot two wildlife detection systems here in the East Kootenay,” Stone said. “One will be just outside of Sparwood, because that area has the highest incidents of elk collisions in the province — by far. The second system will be just east of Cranbrook and it has one of the highest rates overall of collisions with wildlife, most of which is deer.
“So we thought, ‘nowhere better in the province to pilot these systems than here.’”
The combined value is $1.5 million. Stone said the technology is state of the art, using sensors and radar to identify large wildlife approaching the shoulder of the highway. When a large animal is detected, the system will trigger flashing lights on a warning sign to alert drivers of the potential hazard ahead. Drivers can then lower their speed and take appropriate steps to reduce their chances of hitting the animal.
Approximately 70 per cent of elk fatalities on Highway 3 near Sparwood occurred between October and March, a period when driving conditions are most challenging with less daylight and winter conditions.
Approximately 60 per cent of deer fatalities on Highway 3 occurred between April and September, when many tourists are travelling through the area.
An adult bull elk can weigh as much as 315 kg (700 lb) and a large adult bull moose can approach 700 kg (1540 lb). By comparison, a subcompact sedan weighs approximately 1,100 kg (2400 lb), and a motorcycle weighs between 200 and 350 kg (440-770 lb).
Stone, the MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson, was first elected in May, 2013, and the next month was appointed Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure — a big, sprawling, complicated portfolio.
“It’s the best ministry in government, in my opinion,” Stone told the Townsman. “It’s loaded with staff who are all about getting things done. It’s all project-based, there’s a beginning and an end on everything we do.
“I think the greatest challenge — because I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the challenges thus far, and I’ve met the challenges head on, I think — is just the massive scope of transportation infrastructure that we have in this province. We have 47,800 kilometres of road that’s maintained by the Province. You think of the dozens of airports we have, we’ve got about 15 deepwater ports in this province, there’s responsibility for rail, for ICBC … It’s a broad portfolio with lots of responsibilities.”

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Theft of traps thwarts Oak Bay deer cull plan

Bill Cleverley / Times Colonist
June 23, 2014 09:29 PM


A deer bounds through the rough at Victoria Golf Club.   Photograph By ADRIAN LAM, Times Colonist

A theft of deer traps in Cranbrook this past winter has thrown a curve into Oak Bay’s plans for an urban deer cull.
“It appears that the province no longer has the ability to supply the traps that are required to conduct the cull program,” Mayor Nils Jensen said Monday.
“The information we received from the province is that the traps that they had to lend out have either been destroyed or stolen,” Jensen said.
Jensen said there are also concerns the cost of the deer management strategy might be more than the anticipated $12,500.
Ten clover deer traps, available for loan to municipalities, were stolen from a government compound in Cranbrook in February by someone who cut a chain-link fence to gain entry.
According to news reports, six of the 10 stolen traps were quickly found in bush near the compound, but they had been burned and were unusable. One trap was found intact. Three others were missing. RCMP estimated the total value of the traps at about $17,000.
Oak Bay has sent a letter to Steve Thomson, minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources, asking that the province rebuild modified clover traps and make them available.
“The most recent information I have is we may have to manufacture the traps ourselves and that could be a costly business,” Jensen said.
Oak Bay’s deer management initiatives have been done in conjunction with a $150,000 Capital Regional District deer management pilot project which is now close to wrapping up.
CRD staff are recommending that pilot end in September.
Before Oak Bay could conduct a cull, it has to make application to the province for a permit. CRD staff say they will soon present a draft permit application for review by Oak Bay staff prior to submission to the province.
The provincial permit requirements include completion of a conflict reduction program, deer-vehicle collision mitigation, public education plans, and a deer count prior to any cull, all of which have been done.
Jensen said with the CRD pilot ending, Oak Bay will have to decide whether to proceed on its own or to appeal to the CRD to continue the pilot and provide funding.
“Funding is certainly a question mark that we’re still working on. Also the logistics, if we can call it that, is an issue that we are dealing with. How do we dispose of the meat? So we’re looking at partnerships there,” he said.
The earliest the municipality could have proceeded with a cull was this fall.
Oak Bay planned to have up to 25 deer trapped and killed.
The aim of the initiative is to reduce the number of deer killed by automobiles and to appease residents who have long complained about deer taking over backyards, destroying garden shrubs and flowers, and devouring homegrown vegetables.