Nanaimo city officials and residents concerned about the fate of urban deer are keeping a close eye on the results of the the province’s first approved urban cull.
In early October, the Kootenay city of Cranbrook was approved by the B.C. government to cull 25 deer, which many residents agreed had become a problem.
The deer had reportedly attacked pets – one Youtube video, which shows a deer attacking a dog, went viral – and even people.
So far, about 20 deer were caught in a Clover trap and dispatched with a bolt gun in Cranbrook, similar to the way animals are killed in slaughterhouses. The venison will be distributed to the local food bank and Salvation Army.
The idea of a cull in Nanaimo surfaced last year as a possible measure to reduce collisions between cars and deer on city roads. An ICBC report indicated there were 870 deer-car collisions between 2005 and 2010 in Nanaimo, with 25 people injured in those collisions.
Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan said addressing the deer issue is on the new city council’s radar.
“We know there will be a strong resistance to a cull and personally I’m opposed to one as well, and we’re still struggling with the age old issue of responsibility,” said Ruttan.
“The city takes the position this is a provincial matter under conservation, and this is dealing with wild animals. The city doesn’t have the training or the manpower or the equipment to go out and do a deer cull even if there was a desire to do it and in my opinion, there isn’t.”
Cranbrook harbours larger, more aggressive mule deer, while Nanaimo is home to smaller black-tailed deer.
Culls are also being considered on Sidney Island (under Parks Canada, which employs different methods for a cull), Kimberley and Grand Forks.
Ruttan said a bylaw that took effect in April making it illegal to feed deer or rabbits has had some success as a deterrent.
“Most of the people we were aware of who were doing that have since stopped as far as we can tell. I can tell you that phone calls from residents complaining about the deer, or people feeding the deer, have fallen off dramatically so it has worked and that was the whole intent.”
Deer Aware, a group that formed to provide solutions to the deer issue instead of a cull, has worked with the city to develop improved signage along key collision corridors such as Hammond Bay and Departure Bay roads. Those measures are still being considered by the city.