Cranbrook Continues Pointless Deer Killing

There is a maxim often falsely attributed to Albert Einstein: “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Yet, that describes the lethal deer management of the City of Cranbrook, British Columbia. At a meeting in the fall of 2019, Council reviewed a report on its Urban Deer Population Management Program. In it was an accounting of the number of both mule deer and white-tailed deer killed on its behalf between 2011 and 2019. According to the report, the culling was done to address citizen complaints about deer. Not counting 2015, when vandals damaged the traps, stopping the culling of deer early; or 2013, when the cull “ended early due to loss of butcher services,” it went from 24 deer killed in 2015, to 50 deer in 2018. The last cull “…lasted two weeks due to permit delays, trap vandalism, and extremely cold weather that reduced deer activity.”

The killing, done by live-trapping the deer, holding them down, and driving a metal bolt into their brains, did not stop the complaints as there were more in 2019 than any year previous (see previous explanation for example). However, it does upset compassionate citizens who don’t like to see the deer killed. Desperation has, presumably, motivated some to free the captured deer from certain death. Other communities in that part of the province and elsewhere are trying methods that actually reduce complaints, but not Cranbrook. The city keeps doing the same thing over and over, while apparently expecting different results.

The data the city collected showed that complaints stayed essentially the same, even went up. There were 35 complains in 2016, 15 in 2017, 23 in 2019 and 38 in 2019.There were also surveys done to try to get a rough sense of how many deer of the two species are in town. What follows is the total number for each year, with the number that were mule deer in brackets and the remaining number being white-tails: November 2010: 101 (96); March 2012: 121 (74); November 2012: 96 (57); November 2013: 120 (80); December 2014: 104 (?1); November 2015: 137 (116); November 2016: 142 (120); December 2018: 98 (67). The cost of the killing worked out to $650.00 per animal.

The survey numbers (unlike kill numbers or complaint numbers, both accurate) should be considered to be estimates of numbers of deer in town during surveys. One does not have to be a trained biostatistician to see that there is no downward trend in numbers of deer counted. On the other hand, there is a downward trend is in overall numbers of mule deer in the forests of B.C., which concerns hunters and conservationists alike.

Male mule deer in rut (breeding condition) and females protecting fawns can actually be aggressive toward humans, and, most especially, toward dogs. Twenty eight of the 40 complaints listed in the city’s data involved hostile encounters between deer and residents. Thirty-two of the complaints could not identify which species of deer were of concern. Seven complaints identified mule deer as the problem and one a white-tailed deer. Each species of deer behaves differently with white-tails being quite timid. Nonetheless, the Council asked for and received an amended cull permit which allowed for equal killing of white-tailed and mule deer, 35 of each species. Despite this request, only eight deer ultimately lost their lives, five white-tailed and three mule deer.

Deer belong in British Columbia as much as do people. Short of driving their numbers down to endangered status there will always be encounters with people. But, if instead of endlessly killing them and endlessly hearing complaints about them, why not work to reduce the number of deer and the number of complaints by educating the public about garden planting that does not attract deer, providing incentives for fencing, enacting and enforcing leash laws, and taking other actions that actually work?

Keep Wildlife in the Wild,

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