Minister promises committee on urban wildlife

The number of deer in Grand Forks is up from previous counts.

Deer inspire exclamations of awe

Deer inspire exclamations of awe

The number of deer in Grand Forks is up from previous counts according to Grand Forks City Councillor Gary Smith, head of the deer committee.

Smith explained the deer count, which is done twice a year, came in on Oct. 1 at 215 animals.

Smith said that Cranbrook initiated a deer cull when their numbers got to 97, and that with 215 deer in Grand Forks and the city being much smaller than Cranbrook, “Then we are certainly inundated.”

The councillor said he’d met with other communities dealing with the deer issues while at last month’s Union of BC Municipalities convention at Whistler. “We had a scrum with mayors from Invermere, Cranbrook and Oak Bay before meeting with the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations,” Smith said. “We came up a common ask; that we get a commitment for a ministry supported committee on urban wildlife.”

Smith quoted Minister Steve Thompson as saying, “I get your message and I commit to you that by the middle of November, I will have this committee struck.”

“This is very significant,” Smith said, as Grand Forks has been working on the deer issue for eight years.

According to Smith, the benefits of a provincial committee would include support from ministry staff and biologists and it would bring together the chairs of the various committees that are dealing with the issue.

“So that we are all working together for a common solution,” he said. “As individual communities we are left to twist in the wind when it comes to things like resources and dealing with groups like PETA that would keep us tied with injunctions and court fees.”

He said that the deer committee was instrumental in getting a WildSafe BC coordinator to help educate the community about how to keep wildlife wild. Smith said he is not sure how the coordinator’s position will be funded in the future, but that perhaps some answers will be found through the promised provincial urban wildlife committee.

The question of allowing a deer cull will be on the Grand Forks ballot on Nov. 15. Smith said the question will be non-binding plebiscite –“Do you support a deer cull as an option in deer management?”

Also in November the deer committee plans to tag and collar nine deer: two does and a buck from each of the three major herds in town. This will provide some factual information on the movements of the deer.