Culling deer from city streets may be an option but less extreme measures are being explored first.
This from Deer Committee chair Gary Smith, who explained that stopping people from feeding the deer is one of the measures the city will be enforcing to prevent it from having to take that extreme step of killing deer.
Council decided at its last regular meeting on March 9 to direct staff to actively enforce Bylaw 1994, which prohibits the feeding of deer within city limits.
A non-binding referendum question on last November’s ballot found about 60 per cent of voters in favour of a cull. The cull itself would cost about $400 per deer, a figure that doesn’t cover any legal fees or vandalism to equipment used in the cull.
“Human behaviour has exasperated the problem. Start changing human behaviour and you’re going to affect the deer population,” Smith said.
Education, through a partnership with WildSafeBC, has been underway for well over a year.
The Deer Committee is also hoping a collaring program will answer some questions about the town deer. Nine deer were fitted with GPS (global positioning satellite) collars in November. The GPS collars send two locations a day, at dawn and dusk; a company specializing in wildlife (hired for a year’s contract) compiles the information.
Unfortunately, one deer was killed shortly after the monitoring program started. Another two deer have had their collars removed because of chafing on their necks.
Smith said that so far, “The collar data is clearly demonstrating that their range is no more than 750 metres. They’re not going anywhere.”
The information gathered will be a factor in determining if and when a cull is necessary, he added.
The committee has also reached out to the provincial government for support. Smith met with other communities while at the Union of BC Municipalities convention last year, and to appeal for a ministry-supported committee on urban wildlife. The government has come through with a provincially-led task force on urban deer management which would include policy development and a review of relevant tools for wildlife management.
“Grand Forks really has covered a lot of ground for other communities to look to, to see what needs to be done. These are the things we need to do to demonstrate due diligence,” Smith said.
There are 10 people on the Deer Committee, an ad-hoc group that includes Smith; city liaison Chris Hammett; a biologist from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations; local biologist Jenny Coleshill; and members of the community.
The committee conducts a deer count twice a year.
“On Oct. 1, 2014, nine volunteers participated in the semi-annual Grand Forks urban dawn deer count. We counted a total of 212 deer in the five zones,” Smith said.
The buck ratio was deemed low with less than seven bucks to 100 does; fawn ratios were just under 50 fawns per 100 does, both typical ratios for this count.
There are several explanation as to why the buck ratio is low in the urban area, he explained. “It is possible that they exhibit more nocturnal behaviour or seek areas with higher cover making them less visible during the count. Bucks may have segregated and reside out of the count zone or simply emigrated out of the urban environment.”
The committee has observed two peaks in the population trend since the start of the counts in 2007: the first was in 2009 and now again in 2014. “The 2014 spring and fall counts are the highest counts to date,” Smith reported.
For clarification on the city’s bylaw, to file a complaint, or to get more information about the Deer Committee, contact City Hall (7217 Fourth St., phone 250-442-8266) or call Smith at 250-443-1256.
ACCORDING TO THE BYLAW…
It is the city’s Deer Feeding Bylaw No. 1967 that provides the official definitions, violations, enforcement and penalties for people who have been found guilty of feeding deer.
For example, “deer” means any member of the family Cervidae. To “feed” deer means to deliberately lay out food or organic material to attract deer.
“Food” is defined as food, food waste, or any other material that is or is likely to be attractive to deer (as an example, fruits, vegetables, hay, grains and salt licks).
The bylaw’s jurisdiction is within city limits.
No one shall provide deer with food, either directly or by leaving or placing on or about their premises. A conservation officer acting in the performance of his duties is exempt.
This violation doesn’t apply in relation to farm operations; fruit or vegetable gardening for human consumption; or ornament plants and flowers. In other words, if a deer eats your geraniums or has a feast of tomatoes from your garden, you are NOT in violation of the bylaw.
Lastly, no one shall permit deer to be fed on property he or she occupies as a permanent or semi-permanent place of residence or vacant property.
If you, city resident, commit an offence and a complaint is made in writing, EACH DAY you are found in violation is considered a separate offence.
Once the city receives a complaint, the city will send you a letter requesting that you stop feeding the deer. If the city receives more complaints about your feeding the deer, you will be asked to attend an open council meeting. That’s an opportunity to “show cause” why you are not complying with the bylaw.
First offence will see you slapped with a $50 fine. A second offence is a $100 fine; a third, $150. Each offence thereafter also carries a $150 fine.