There’s no magic bullet to solve the problem of urban deer conflict in the town of Princeton.
That was the message delivered last Tuesday to about 50 residents at a public forum, held at Riverside Centre, to discuss the issue.
“We are going to get a game plan backed by our citizens,” Mayor Frank Armitage told the audience in an address from the floor. “There is a hue and cry in our community and this [meeting] has been a first step.”
Armitage said the town will appoint up to four community representatives to the Urban Deer Committee and promised there will be future public meetings.
Education and by law enforcement will be key parts of a new comprehensive strategy, said Councillor Doug Pateman, a member of the town’s Urban Deer Committee and co-chair of Tuesday’s meeting.
“There are many things that can be done but we must have the support of the community,” said Pateman.
“The next step is coming up with a program that we can bring to the public.”
Pateman cautioned a solution “is not going to be an overnight thing or something one month down the road.”
Following the two-hour forum Rick Zerr, CAO, confirmed the town has earmarked $25,000 in the upcoming budget to install a cattle guard at the Princeton landfill to keep deer off the property.
The town will also begin writing tickets to residents who feed deer. Under Princeton’s bylaw the offense is punishable by a $100 fine, although Zerr said he is not aware of anyone being charged in the past.
“If people don’t comply there has to be some consequence,” he said. “If people are going to continue to feed the deer, that would be the consequence.”
Zerr said a recent application to WildsafeBC for funding for a town deer coordinator is still pending approval and in the interim the town will work with existing WildsafeBC staff.
Several deer experts spoke at Tuesday’s forum, including conservation service officer Jim Beck, provincial wildlife biologist Craig McLean, and WildsafeBC coordinators Zoe Kirk and Frank Ritcey.
Ritcey emphasized that feeding deer only aggravates human-deer conflicts. “People think if they feed the deer they are helping them, but they are really hurting them.”
He said urban deer issues are a phenomenon of the last twenty years, and began about the same time municipalities established leash laws to control dogs.
WildsafeBC now receives 700 calls a year about aggressive deer. “Safety is a real issue with deer.”
Some BC communities have implemented culling to reduce deer numbers, said Ritcey. He added these programs have downsides including public outcry, high costs and in the case of hazing “you are moving the problem.”
Several people in the crowd echoed safety concerns.
“I don’t know how many times I have come home and not been able to get out of my car,” said Denise Winter. She said honking the horn and banging on the car windows do nothing to deter the deer crowding around her vehicle. “They just stand there as if to say ‘do you have a problem.’”
Winter expressed frustration that no action has been taken “for the last 12 years…This is a problem, when dogs are getting stomped and I can’t leave my home.”
Gino Del-Ciotto, founder of the Princeton PRO Deer Population Reduction Organization, told the panel that “pets getting killed…has happened more than once in this town.”
Del-Ciotto suggested the town establish a way for residents to make anonymous reports about people feeding deer.
Wildlife BC’s Zoe Kirk suggested people who are fearful of deer can attempt harassing them with high-powered water pistols, and also demonstrated a walking stick with a bottle of dog deterrent (similar to diluted bear spray) which could be used to deter aggressive deer.
Rosemary Doughty, councilor and member of the urban deer community, said she was very pleased with both the turn out at the meeting and the information that was brought forward.
“I’m very happy with this,” she said at the meeting’s end. “It was very good to hear the questions. This is a positive step.”