Update 2013-02-23: Cranbrook Councilor Regrets Lack of Transparency in Deer Management

Perceptions by Gerry Warner
Please consider this column an open letter to the citizens of Cranbrook and my fellow councilors on Cranbrook City Council. Regardless of where you stand on the deer issue we all share responsibility for the problem and I don’t think any of us has been living up to our responsibility including Cranbrook City Council, which has failed in one key respect.


And because of that we have lost most of our credibility on this issue with our own citizens, regardless of where they stand on the cull.  And once again, we’ve raised our city’s profile outside of Cranbrook in a most negative way. This has got to stop because nobody wins on an issue as deeply divisive as this and it will only get worse.
As a result, I’ve drafted a notice of motion demanding that all future council discussion of the deer cull issue take place in the public part of council meetings until we develop and approve a deer cull policy. At this point, I have no idea what the policy will be. It could be to continue the cull or to try something entirely different or to have no policy at all and let the chips fall where they may. But that’s not the point.

The point is that whatever we decide, IT MUST BE DECIDED IN PUBLIC!
So far we have hidden from the public eye and like shadowy apparatchiks of some Third World regime, we’ve cowered behind closed doors and taken a bad situation and torqued it up into something infinitely worse. I have been partly responsible for this and for that I here and now unequivocally apologize to each and every citizen of Cranbrook for my role in this toxic mess. As a retired journalist with more than 30 years of experience, I should have known better. But I have now realized the error of my ways and I’m determined to do better.
In this regard, I’d like to make a critical point.  The argument that swayed us to retreat in-camera was because of alleged vandalism and public safety incidents during the Invermere deer cull and the possibility of similar incidents occurring here. There is some merit in this argument, but I have since come to the conclusion that whether the argument is meritorious or not, vandalism and public safety is an RCMP issue, not a council issue, and it shouldn’t have swayed our judgment in taking the public’s business behind closed doors. Once we retreated into our locked chamber, we lost control of the issue and the rest is history.

I’d also like to be upfront about where I’m coming from. I support a cull, but not in the incompetent way we’ve gone about it. Firstly, as everyone knows, a civil court case has been filed arising from the Invermere cull and I think it would have been prudent and respectful for Cranbrook City Council to wait until this case was heard. Instead, we foolishly rushed in and stirred up the proverbial hornets’ nest and made ourselves – and our city – the target of anti-cull rage from coast to coast. Talk about dumb politics. That’s about as dumb as it gets.
And what really burns me in this entire asinine fiasco is that we had the perfect solution in our hands and we let it slip through our fingers. And what is that, you rightfully ask? Let the Conservation Officers do it! They’re doing it already. Every year in Cranbrook and the rest of the province, COs cull hundreds, if not thousands, of injured deer. It’s their job and they have the expertise to do it. And legally, deer are “owned” by the Fish and Wildlife Branch and culling them is their responsibility. Passing this responsibility down to municipalities is just another provincial government download.

What more can I say? I respect the feelings of people on both sides of this tortuous debate including the suggestion to be “creative” and find ways to avoid culling while at the same time stopping urban deer from wreaking havoc on our hitherto peaceful communities. And to just show my own concern about the issue, I’ve sent emails to every council member and the mayor that I will no longer take part in any in-camera discussion about the deer issue.

This is a public issue and it should be discussed publicly.

Gerry Warner is a retired journalist and Cranbrook City Councillor. His opinions are his own.

Update 2013-02-18: Cranbrook charges ahead with deer cull, despite unresolved legal challenge

CRANBROOK, — Cranbrook is pushing forward with plans to cull up to 30 mule deer roaming the city, despite pledging last year to hold off from any killings until a B.C. Supreme Court legal challenge is settled.

The city announced Thursday that council made the decision “after much careful deliberation,” reads a statement from corporate communications officer Chris Zettel.

“Due to concerns around public safety raised both by the RCMP and council, the city will not at this time be providing any additional details surrounding the population reduction activities.”
The trapping will occur in “several key areas of the community,” based on complaints received by both the city and the Conservation Officer Service, Zettel said.

Cranbrook was granted permission to carry out the cull by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations in late 2012.

But with a court case underway in a nearby city, opposition from animal advocates and the possibility the wrong deer were being killed, the city had been refraining from further action.
The city would not provide details on when or where the cull will occur, while council and other staff refused to answer questions from the media.

A day before the announcement, the B.C. Deer Protection Coalition took out a full-page advertisement in the city’s local newspaper asking “Will Cranbrook kill deer this winter? Rumour says yes.”

Cranbrook was the first of three East Kootenay communities to carry out a cull with a provincial licence.

Kimberley, B.C., culled 100 deer in January 2012, while Invermere was set to cull 100 deer in February 2012 before a court injunction put a hold on the plans.
Cranbrook Daily Townsman

Update 2012-04-24: Cranbrook to clover trap more deer

City council April 23 agreed to a recommendation made by the Urban Deer Management Advisory Committee (UDMAC) to stage another clover trap cull, citing an increase in deer in the city despite the 20 animals killed in the fall of 2011.

Prior to getting provincial government approval to conduct the first urban deer cull in the province, a count of mule and white-tail deer in the city in 2010 showed 111 animals.
The UDMAC and city volunteers conducted another count March 31, within the city, covering nine zones. This time 121 were counted in the nine zones, between 7:30 and 9:30 a.m. Of that number, 74 were mule deer and 47 white-tail. In 2010, only 10 of the 111 deer counted were white-tail. Additionally, 11 elk were counted inside city limits on March 31.
Data from the count was compiled by Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources wildlife biologist Irene Teske.

“The committee notes that the population numbers overall are still low in the City of Cranbrook, compared to other communities experiencing their own issues with urban deer. The committee also indicated that they believe the population counts, both in 2010 and 2012 are not capturing the total number of deer within the municipal boundary,” states the UDMAC report/recommendation.
Council voted five to two to agree to the committee recommendation, with Mayor Wayne Stetski and Coun. Sharon Cross voting against it.

Stetski said he would have liked “or translocation” to be included in the motion to cull 50 deer, with some consideration of transplanting animals as opposed to killing them.
UDMAC committee member Coun. Bob Whetham said relocation of deer is “the most socially acceptable” means of dealing with urban deer problems but is also “the most expensive and most cruel way to cull.”

His own research, including discussions with wildlife biologists and from attending an urban wildlife conference, show that a deer’s nervous system is impacted from translocation, to the point that it loses its flight response and they easily fall prey to predators.

Additionally, he said, urban deer will “go back to what they are familiar with” and either head back to the city or migrate to the nearest community. He also noted that the city had not heard from any groups or wildlife agencies on taking on a relocation pilot program.
Whetham said the committee considered the growing public opposition to urban deer culls.
Cranbrook, the first out of the block, received almost no opposition to its cull. Up next to use the 10 clover traps provided by the provincial government, was the City of Kimberley and its 100 animal cull, which began to receive opposition from the Humane Treatment of Urban Wildlife Committee. The city met its target mark.

That same committee addressed District of Invermere council just prior to it launching the third East Kootenay municipal cull, also with a permit for 100 deer. Adding to and then drowning out the Humane Treatment of Urban Wildlife Committee was an Invermere-based group, the Invermere Deer Protection Agency, that took the district to court, gaining a B.C. Supreme Court injunction to briefly delay the cull.

When the district undertook its two-week cull Feb. 24, only 19 animals were killed. The court matter remains unresolved.

“Invermere had a particularly difficult time,” Whetham said, adding the city should meet with officials from Kimberley and Invermere to see if there are better ways to proceed. He added that a couple of the traps may have to be repaired after being vandalized during the Invermere cull.
Agreeing with the second Cranbrook cull were councilors Whetham, Angus Davis, Denise Pallesen, Diana J Scott and Gerry Warner.

“Translocation is actually more cruel, in the end,” Scott noted, adding she agreed with speaking to Kimberley and Invermere officials. The public also needs to be as well-informed as possible, she cautioned.

Urban deer are not just a problem in the region, Scott told council, explaining that after attending the recent Union of Kootenay-Boundary Local Government annual general meeting in Trail, “municipalities are getting more frustrated each year.” She mentioned a recent incident in Princeton where a 20-year-old man was “stomped” by a deer. “If it can happen to an adult, it can happen to a child,” she said.

Davis said he supports the cull because “these deer do damage to property.” People spend a great amount of time and money to keep their yards beautiful and the deer are a problem to them, he said, adding there is also the safety aspect.

“We’re doing the right thing,” he said.

The city is budgeting $15,000 for the proposed cull, though it could cost more “depending on number of deer to be culled, contractor rate, costs to process meat and approved cull methodology,” noted the UDMAC report to council.

Mayor Stetski pointed out that the 2011 cull cost $519 per deer taken and questioned how the city could conduct a larger cull for only $15,000
“We may have to re-visit that,” admitted Whetham.
Ian Cobb/e-KNOW

Update 2011-12-13: These nets stop deer, not pucks

VICTORIA— From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

Published Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011 8:54PM EST

Last updated Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011 8:59PM EST

To the untrained eye, the custom-made “clover traps” that arrived in Cranbrook earlier this month could easily be mistaken for oversized hockey nets. 
But instead of stopping pucks, they’re meant to capture marauding urban deer that have become a nuisance and a safety hazard in the Kootenay town in recent years. 

    Measuring about two metres long, 1.5 metres high and a metre deep, the collapsible, mesh-covered cages are the key to a ground-breaking deer cull program that received final approval from the provincial government last week.

    City of Cranbrook spokesman Chris Zettel said the devices will be baited with fruit, domestic animal feed and other treats that attract urban-dwelling deer. 
    “When the deer start feeding, they set off a little trap string that drops the door behind them, often in the middle of the night,” Mr. Zettel said. “Then when the contractors show up in the morning, they pull the pins and the top collapses down on the deer.”

    The first B.C. municipality to receive a provincial permit to capture and kill deer inside its city limits, Cranbrook modelled its deer-cull program after a similar initiative in Helena, Mont., where close to 500 animals have been removed from a 28-square-kilometre area of the state capital over the last three years.

    Once trapped, animals are killed with a bolt gun, “the same type of device that’s used to kill livestock in a slaughterhouse,” Mr. Zettel said.

    The carcasses will be taken to a local butcher shop that specializes in game meat and “processed essentially into hamburger,” he said.

    The meat will be offered to a local program for homeless first nations people, and leftovers will go to the local food bank for distribution, he said.

    Cranbrook’s deer control efforts were prompted by a series of high-profile incidents in 2010, including a disturbing video of a deer stomping on a local dog that went viral on YouTube, and an attack on a local newspaper carrier.

    Kimberley and Invermere have also applied for deer cull permits due to concerns that the region’s robust population of white-tailed deer poses an increasing threat to human safety. Last June, a Kimberly woman was injured by an aggressive doe while trying to stop the animal from attacking her dog in her yard.

    Over the summer, Cranbrook and the provincial Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, the agency responsible for deer control, agreed to share the cost of a deer management pilot project.

    The ministry anted up $15,000 for equipment, including 10 deer traps, two bolt guns and a plastic sled for carting away the carcasses. The municipality has budgeted $13,000 to cover the cost of deer-control contractors and processing the meat.

    Mr. Zettel said Cranbrook has permission to remove 25 deer from “several problem herds in town where we’ve had the most problems. A lot of them are fourth- or fifth-generation animals that have become accustomed to the lack of predators and the abundant food sources in the city.”

    Earlier this month, officials from Cranbrook travelled to Montana to meet with a retired police officer who runs Helena’s deer control program, said Troy McGee, Helena’s police chief.

    “They ordered some traps and when they came down to pick them up, he helped put them together and showed them how everything works,” Chief McGee said, adding that the meat from Helena’s deer-cull program “is in high demand.”

    Mr. Zettel said Cranbrook expects to have a deer control contractor in place by the end of the month and, following a brief training period, begin culling deer in early December.