The town of Princeton is taking the deer issue by the antlers.
An application has been made to Wildlife BC to fund 75 per cent of the cost of hiring a part-time coordinator to help with deer education and to make recommendations on urban deer management.
The application comes with the formation of a new Regional Wildlife Management Strategy that will be developed in co-operation with the Regional District of Similkameen, according to councilors Doug Pateman and Rosemary Doughty.
In an interview with the Spotlight last week Patemen and Doughty said while the strategy is still in “its very early stages” it will include continued lobbying for the re-opening of a local conservation office.
Pateman and Doughty recently attended a seminar sponsored by the Union of BC Municipalities to discuss urban deer issues.
Pateman described the meeting as “eye opening.” He said listening to councilors and staff from other municipalities who have struggled with deer population was also alarming.
For example, he said, a cull was carried out in Invermere after 75 per cent of residents responded to a town survey indicating they supported the measure. So far that community has spent more than $165,000 to defend itself against subsequent lawsuits.
Councillors and town staff have felt threatened in Invermere, he said. “The CAO’s house was staked out and he was actually followed taking his son to hockey.”
Pateman said a website appeared that identified councillors’ homes with threatening images like guns and cross hairs.
“They are all really gun shy and stepping on eggs,” said Pateman.
In Kimberly, where deer were also culled, animal rights groups stole and burned clover traps, and damaged town property, he said.
When asked if that kind of situation could erupt in Princeton Pateman said “I don’t think it will happen but I can see how it could….If you go on social media we have already had two groups fighting back and forth.
“Social media is a valuable too but a dangerous tool. I can quickly take a subject matter and it make it explode fight over night.”
Last month two Facebook groups publicly debated what should be done about urban deer in Princeton and eventually agreed to work together to reduce the population. While town councilors were invited to a meeting with the newly formed association they did not attend as the meeting was not open to the public.
A newly elected councilor, Doughty has been on the town’s deer committee since its inception and has participated in six deer counts over 13 months. The counts – executed at different times of the year and different times of day – ranged from 13 to 75.
She said those numbers aren’t raising any flags with the province. “The average number of deer in Princeton is 36.5….as far as the province is concerned we are low on the priority list.”
Doughty said provincial guidelines suggest an acceptable number of urban deer is up to 9.6 per square kilometer. She declined to discuss the deer counts that have been promoted through social media.
“I can’t talk about it because I wasn’t there,” she said, adding another official deer count is planned for February.