Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Re: National Post Full Comment by Brian Hutchinson

“After cull enrages “Save Bambi” crowd, BC creates 100k/year “advisory committee” on urban deer”

September 28, 2015

* In a purely emotional comment, Brian Hutchinson, Vancouver columnist for the National Post,  attempted to explain the need for urban deer culls using the clover trap/bolt gun method.  DeerSafe points out his lack of research and reliance on an excerpt from the post-cull report by Oak Bay. *

VANCOUVER — Residents of verdant Oak Bay, B.C. are on red alert after Ollie, a nine-year-old Yorkshire Terrier, was brutally attacked and killed earlier this month while “doing his business” in his owner’s front yard.

“His little head was smashed right open,” his distraught owner told CHEK TV. “It was all over very quickly. He just dropped dead instantly.”

* A tragic event. Media did not cover another tragic death of a dog at the Cattle Point parking lot – which is in Oak Bay, not Victoria where Ollie's owner actually lives – where a driver deliberately ran over someone's beloved pet right before their eyes. * 

Ollie’s killer was an unfettered ungulate. Specifically, a deer. An aggressive buck is now wanted in Oak Bay for crimes against canines. What fate might befall the buck, should a local human ever confront it, is unclear.

* Witnesses at the scene were not sure this was a buck. *

Oak Bay residents are conflicted about their urban deer, which number in the dozens — if not hundreds — and get into all kinds of trouble. * Exaggeration that is permissible due to lack of evidence. * Garden pilferage, traffic accidents, sometimes pet homicide. The cleanest, most sensible solution is to shoot problem deer, and whenever possible to butcher the carcasses and give the meat to community groups, First Nations and whomever else might have a taste for venison. * Urban deer will not pass a meat inspection. *

But when such a cull operation launched in Oak Bay earlier this year, and 11 deer were trapped and shot dead over 16 days, the “Save Bambi” crowd howled. Local politicians scampered off in fear.

* The Oak By pilot project was intended as an experiment to see if deer could be clover trapped and bolt gunned in a densely urbanized municipality.  The target was 25 deer, so 11 would appear to be a dismal failure. *

“Regardless of having the support of the silent majority in our community, * exaggeration that is permissible due to lack of evidence * there is currently no permitted and socially acceptable way to responsibly and ethically manage a growing population of urban deer * exaggeration that is permissible due to lack of evidence * in a manner that does not financially and emotionally severely challenge the municipal leadership who are taking action,” reads an April 2015 post-cull report from the District of Oak Bay.

So that was that. No more culls in emotionally-challenged Oak Bay, where deer roam free and half-wild. Bad news for Ollie, indeed.

* An emotional statement itself. *

The fact is, deer are running amok in cities and municipalities across B.C., and the rest of Canada, too. * Exaggeration that is permissible due to lack of evidence. * A few days before Ollie’s business was interrupted and he died, Vancouver witnessed its own deer-related death. A slender buck, briefly beloved for nosing nonchalantly around the downtown core, emerged from its adopted home in Stanley Park and was smoked by a passing motorist. * Smoked?  A comment that is as insensitive to deer as any motorist who speeds, then blames others when things go wrong. *

The Vancouver Park Board issued a solemn statement on the animal’s “passing,” describing the death as a “tragedy.” The park board dared not mention the right answer to its local urban deer problem. Shoot-to-cull is anathema in butter-soft Vancouver. Deer adoption seems the preferred option here.

Alas, “finding sanctuaries willing to receive animals in these circumstances is a challenge,” says the park board. * Sanctuaries are privately funded. If government wants to off-load wildlife to them they should be fully funding them as well. *

Into the breach stepped the provincial government, which last week announced it will set up a Provincial Urban Deer Advisory Committee, to discuss ad infinitum the issue, and direct up to $100,000 a year “for future deer management operations” across B.C.

Details are to come later, after the urban deer advisory committee members are selected, a process also shrouded in mystery. “The committee is currently being formed,” according to B.C.’s ministry of forests, lands and natural resource operations. “More details will follow.”

Here’s what committee members and other interested parties can do now: Read the myriad reports and studies already commissioned in B.C and other provinces in recent years. Hundreds and hundreds of pages, all about urban deer and the problems they cause.

Every possible solution has been discussed to death already. Capturing deer and relocating them to the woods somewhere can be effective, but it’s expensive and not so easy on the deer. “Hazing” deer, or scaring them away with dogs and devices, is almost useless. Deer aren’t stupid; they adapt. Injecting doe with birth control chemicals is a complicated business and cost-prohibitive.

* One “possible solution” hasn't been adequately explored – immunocontraception.  Oak Bay residents comprised of scientists, educators and retired government officials have formed a group called the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society. The CRD has committed $30,000 to their immunocontraceptive project, and Oak Bay council has begrudgingly committed $5,000.  Thousands have also been raised by public donation.  This pilot project is yet to be completed and assessed. *

Most reports suggest the same thing: The best way to handle problem urban deer is not to handle them. Kill them instead. And, if the specimens are healthy — frequently, they are not, poor deer — devour them. * Preferably donate them to the poor and First Nations, since the meat would not pass a government inspection. *

It’s too much to bear for some societies, where meat doesn’t come naturally at all, where steaks magically appear in grocery stores instead, nicely sliced and packaged in prophylactic cellophane. In other words, almost everywhere, now. And certainly in Vancouver and Oak Bay, where “sensitivities” are easily aroused and exploited. Just like urban deer, animal rights hardliners can be a nuisance everywhere.

The use of firearms in cities is a legitimate concern. Most Canadian municipalities prohibit the use of guns within their boundaries, so certain provisions to ensure public safety must be made. * Provisions that would take more readings of a myriad of reports and studies, not to be taken lightly when those with weapons are skulking around our municipalities. *

After its brief deer-killing experiment this year, the District of Oak Bay noted that it takes the right kind of “contractor” to conduct a cull. “Someone who is a hunter does not necessarily have the appropriate skills and temperament to manage all of the complex requirements that accompany something as sensitive in nature as this initiative,” the report reads. * Why the term "sensitive in nature?"  They are talking about horrific animal abuse, after all. *

Translation: Trophy hunters and avenging Yorkie lovers need not apply.

* “Save Bambi crowd,” “animal rights hardliners,” “emotionally challenged Oak Bay.”  Name calling is the last refuge of those who cannot logically disprove an opposing viewpoint. *

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Deer Culling Creates an Atmosphere of Violence

On the morning of September 16, 2015 a small Yorkshire terrier was tragically killed by a deer in the municipality of Victoria. In a local newscast the house of a neighbour was pictured with a deer crossing sign on the front lawn. The signs are purchased from the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society by members of the public who want to warn drivers that deer live in their neighborhoods.

A heartbreaking situation has become a platform for the pro-cull enthusiasts in a shameless attempt to bring discussion back to our communities to support the killing of deer. But the vitriol towards the deer supporters took an ominous turn when the neighbours whose house was shown on the news woke up on the morning of September 26 to find an arrow in their sign. No other signs on this street had been vandalized. The neighbour experienced a justifiable sense of intimidation. This time the arrow through the sign was a “novelty” arrow, but the message was meant to create just that; intimidation and fear.

A DeerSafe member came very close to becoming a victim of physical assault while collecting signatures for the “No to a Cull” petition to the CRD. Fortunately the angry pro-cull individual was restrained by her companions.

Some politicians have fed into a fearmongering mentality that creates a violent atmosphere for citizens. If policies are passed that lead to the deaths of wild animals who have no way out, there will be resistance by many citizens who would prefer a humane approach.

DeerSafe holds the position that lethal deer management in our communities will engender a sense in our youth that violence will solve their problems. Poor policy such as the mass slaughter of inconvenient animals is not only dangerous, it will follow us all into the future.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Biologists keeping a close eye on deer populations

Wildlife biologists are keeping a close eye on mule and whitetail deer populations.
— image credit: Trevor Crawley

by  Trevor Crawley - Cranbrook Daily Townsman
posted Sep 15, 2015 at 8:30 AM

As the season turns into fall, hunters are hauling out their gear to head out into the backcountry to search for their elusive ungulates.

Hunting season, starting with an early archery phase, opened on Sept. 1st for elk, mule and whitetail deer, and moose.

For the most part, ungulate populations in the area seem to be doing alright, according to a wildlife biologist with the Fish and Wildlife branch of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

However, the government is keeping an eye on the mule deer population, as hunting regulations recently replaced an any mule deer buck season with a four-point mule deer buck season.

"That was mainly because of concerns about low buck-to-doe ratios in some areas," said Tara Szkorupa, a wildlife biologist.

…And then we just have concerns about the mule deer population overall. We don't believe that there was any correlation between the any buck season and the declines in the mule deer because there was still good fawn recruitment and breeding and there didn't appear to be any effect on breeding."

A combination of animal health and predation are potential factors to the population decline, she added.

"Those can interact and there can be less complicating factors around that, but those are the main two factors that we're looking at," Szkorupa said.

"So the health and the body condition of the animals—that would point to habitat potentially being limiting and then we have radio collars that a signal goes off when the animal dies and we can get in on the animal quickly and look at which predators—if it was predated on—which predator was involved."

Wildlife biologists aren't as concerned about Whitetail deer, but are still watching the populations very closely, she added.

Hunters have reported fewer whitetail sightings to the Fish and Wildlife branch in areas with good road access and heavy hunting pressure. However, based off the harvest records from 2014, hunters seem to be having a lot of success with Whitetails, she said.

"Whitetail, overall, appear to be doing quite well, but we're watching the populations very closely and we're discussing options for changing hunting regulations for the future as well."

For both Whitetail and Mule Deer, the provincial government is also looking for hunters to bring in the heads of their animals to select butcher shops or the Ministry of Environment office to test for Chronic Wasting Disease.

According to a provincial online resource, Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a fatal disease of animals in the Cervid family, which include mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk and moose.

CWD is not currently present in B.C. but is spreading west in free-ranging deer from Alberta. There has been a CWD surveillance program since 2002 that has tested over 2,500 deer, elk and moose.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) was first detected in captive mule deer in the 1960s in Colorado and Wyoming and was introduced to Canada from the United States by imported captive elk.

There is currently no evidence that CWD can infect humans. For more information on CWD, visit www.gov.bc.ca/wildlifehealth.

In terms of changes to the Region 4 B.C. hunting regulations, there isn't too much different from last year.

In select management units, there are expanded spike-fork moose hunting opportunities, revised cougar seasons and female quota as well as modifications to agricultural zone elk hunting opportunities.

The cougar changes were made mainly in areas that are home to Caribou in the region.

"The bag limit was increased in mainly caribou areas—areas where we are concerned about predation on caribou and there's not a whole lot of cougar hunting in those areas and so that was just another potential tool to increase the harvest in those areas a bit," Szkorupa said.

For a complete synopsis of the hunting regulations, go online and visit: www.env.gov.bc.ca/fw/wildlife/hunting/regulations/.