by Barry Kent MacKay,
Senior Program Associate
Born Free USA’s Canadian Representative
Cranbrook is a town that hosts nearly 20,000 humans in the core municipal area and 116 deer. There used to be somewhat fewer deer, according to the people who go around counting them—but a lot of people living there want fewer deer, and so the councillors spent quite a bit of tax money to do something that produced more.
Does that make sense to you? It seems wonky to me. But, although I love the town (which sits in a wide and scenic mountain valley in southeastern British Columbia), I don’t live there. When I go there, I take great pleasure in both the beautiful scenery and the wildlife, including the mule deer who come and go from the surrounding forests.
Unlike the widely-distributed white-tailed deer, the mule deer—native to our western provinces and states—are not especially nervous. Female deer do not step away from fawns when real or imagined danger threatens, and dogs are sometimes seen as threats to be attacked (and not fled from, as white-tails almost always do). Mule deer eat garden plants and drop euphemistically-named “deer pellets” on lawns and sidewalks, if not excessively: more than some folks can tolerate. And, they get hit by cars (although they also cause cars to slow down and drivers to be cautious, making streets safer for pedestrians, especially children).
And, every so often—very rarely—they will go after a human, especially one with a dog. Only three aggressive deer have been killed by police in Cranbrook in 12 years, according to provincial data.
Therefore, in 2011, Cranbrook trapped and killed 24 deer; 24 in 2013; four in 2015; and 20 in 2016. Numbers of deer have varied, but overall, they have grown from 96 in 2010 to 116 in 2015, according to Cranbrook’s own figures. The method of killing is brutal and random, with about half the number being white-tailed deer and harmless young mule deer.
Meanwhile, people are learning a little better about co-habiting with these wonderful animals. Complaints about deer have gone down to a five-year low of—wait for it—18 complaints.
So, what has the provincial ministry allowed Cranbrook to do? Kill all the deer, or nearly all. Last December 1, the province gave the city permission to kill up to 100 mule (and white-tailed) deer between then and March 15. Of course, people who like the deer (including visitors like me) are not considered, but the British Columbia Deer Protection Society is there to fight back.
Lee Pratt, Cranbrook’s new mayor, can be reached at Lee.Pratt@cranbrook.ca.
Keep wildlife in the wild,