The municipality is paving the way to tackle the problem of aggressive urban deer.
At a recent meeting of a Committee of the Whole, councillors expressed their general support to explore the establishment of an Urban Wildlife and Deer Select Committee.
The matter was referred to staff, to be discussed as part of the 2023 budget process.
Mayor Spencer Coyne, who wrote the terms of reference for the proposed committee, said it was the right move should the new council, which will be elected in October of this year, decides to pursue a deer management plan.
It’s estimated the initial cost of the committee and its study will be $20,000, and that could climb to $50,000 with the consultation required from biologists and environmentalists.
The province has jurisdiction over urban deer, and Coyne said the committee – which will include members of council as well as citizens – has a lot of work to do before any kind of management program is suggested.
Councillor Barb Gould holds the wildlife portfolio. She explained that almost all complaints regarding aggressive deer are made during fawning season, in the spring – when does are protective of their young – and it lasts for six to eight weeks.
“They almost always involve dogs.”
According to Gould some options that could eventually be approved by the province include a cull, sterilization, relocation and hazing.
She noted relocation is rarely successful as approximately two-thirds of urban deer die in the wilderness, and the remainder usually find another centre to live in.
She added education is an important key in keeping the community safe from deer.
Councillor Randy McLean countered that he couldn’t spend $20,000 just on education, as there have been ongoing education programs. “I wouldn’t spend it, and I wouldn’t spend a lot less.”
He added he feels a cull might be the best solution.
However, according to Coyne, the town is a long ways away from a permanent solution and eventually the matter may come down to a referendum.
He was advised by a conservation officer that a referendum would be the best plan, and should likely require a 60 per cent consensus.
“It has to go through a scientific process and it can’t be based on emotion. It has to be based on science…That’s the provincial rules.”
Coyne said should a committee eventually be struck “it would all be recommendations from that committee that council would have to proceed with…The committee is paramount to any future management plan. It’s quite the process.”
Once approved, there is matched funding available from the province for deer management.
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