At this time last year there was one question everyone in Princeton was asking: just what are we going to do about the deer?
If most people ask about the deer today the question is more likely to be: where did they all go?
There were just 12 deer recorded within town limits according to a deer count conducted January 15. That compares to 38 deer in February 2015, and a high of 75 in November 2014.
Councillor Rosemary Doughty called the results “fantastic. I’m feeling really positive.”
Doughty and Councillor Doug Pateman represent council on the town’s deer advisory committee.
“People are recognizing the name of Princeton as being one of the communities that has successfully dealt with deer,” said Pateman. “We’ve reduced numbers without culling and without huge expense…we’ve been touting Princeton as the model for the rest of the province.”
As the deer population has declined, so has the angst within the community about a “final” solution for urban deer.
“I don’t hear the hub bub on different [social media] pages regarding the deer that we had at this time last year or the year before. We don’t have the big fight between those in favor of culling and those of live and let live and translocation and all of that.”
Pateman and Doughty credit the success of the deer reduction to a series of steps taken in the last 12 months.
Last spring the municipality held a public deer forum, bringing together concerned residents and wildlife experts from across the province, and afterwards expanded the municipal deer committee.
Education and the promotion of best practices, such as not feeding deer and planting deer resistant plants, were foundations of the deer strategies, they said.
A summer student was hired to communicate with residents about how to deer proof their properties and the municipal bylaw enforcement officer was empowered to ticket people who feed deer or otherwise contravene the town’s wildlife by law.
An electric fence and cattle guard were installed at the town’s landfill “where the deer used to line up every morning to get in,” said Pateman. As well refuse handling practices at the landfill changed to make food less accessible to animals.
Pateman admitted the multi-faceted and education-based approach was not initially met with enthusiasm.
A survey conducted by the town in 2013 asked for opinions on several deer control options including culling, and capturing and culling.
“The one option that the was the lowest number as far as any viable solution was education. Nobody wanted education. They wanted a grandiose answer.”
Pateman said implementing the low-key strategy took “patience and a very thick skin, definitely, definitely a thick skin.”
Princeton will again apply for a grant to fund a student deer position this summer, and council has already passed another resolution for the Union of BC Municipalities to pressure government to reinstate the town’s conservation office, he added.