It was with regret and some sadness that I recently submitted my resignation from the Princeton Deer Management Committee. I am writing this letter so my position as a “conscientious objector” is made clear to all concerned.
I originally volunteered for this position in the hope that the committee would look for practical and humane solutions to the concerns about the ”town deer” population, voiced by a number of residents. This cumbersome process, however, was avoided. Instead, the committee was asked to edit a questionnaire circulated by the City of Cranbrook to gather public input regarding their own, local, deer issues for use in Princeton.
I expressed my disappointment to, then group leader, councillor Jason Earle, in an e-mail dated April 23 wherein I said:
“I have never served on a committee that asked so little of me, especially on one to which I was prepared to give so much. When I offered to serve on the Urban Deer Management Advisory Committee I anticipated that this group would, perhaps, become involved in a long-term project of creating and maintaining a strategy for resolving, or at least mitigating, the Princeton urban deer dilemma. I had hoped for a strategy that might involve the community in a defensive plan, employing efforts at public education and strategies for landscaping, gardening and fencing. This would have been a unique, practical and enlightened Town Plan to deal without a potentially, highly divisive issue – a public relations nightmare”.
I added, “Had I know our only purpose was to initialize a dubious questionnaire, I would not have volunteered. Why copy other people’s bad ideas”?
Nonetheless, the resulting questionnaire was circulated in Princeton to 1270 recipients; 334 were returned. The results were tabulated by the committee and a detailed report was issued for council. It has been available on the Town website for some time. Some results have been publicized. Many are aware that 85 percent of the Princeton respondents declared that “No Action” was not acceptable and that 45.3 percent of these respondents saw “Capture and Euthanize” as the desired outcome, followed in third place by 41.3 percent who liked “Relocation”. Omitted is the reality that 42.6 percent like the idea of “Professional Sharpshooting”, another euphemism for “kill”.
In my e-mail to Earle I offered the Town full, free access to an information booklet about defensive gardening in deer country that I began to create many years ago, first for myself and then expanded to use as gifts to our new home purchasers and new tenants. It is primarily a comprehensive list of plants that are deemed “deer resistant” and “cold hardy”. And – so it remained until the Urban Deer Management Advisory Committee was established. If available on the Town website, I saw the booklet as a possible catalyst for further action – as a way for the public to be easily informed and perhaps be inspired to action on their projects and their own properties. There was no interest in this idea. It seems that learning something new has no appeal, as born out by the survey, where “Public Education” garnered almost no support and 30.8 percent found it downright unacceptable.
On November 8, 2013 the committee was reconvened under the leadership of councillor Doug Pateman. Given the material provided by councilor Pateman and the ensuing discussion, I can only conclude that Town Council may either elect to do nothing because only a small percentage of questionnaires (26%) were returned, indicating that most Princeton residents are not highly concerned about the deer “problem” – or – Council may continue to follow the Cranbrook model, where a deer cull has now been adopted, despite strong opposition.
The committee learned that Town council did not especially want the Public Relations nightmare of a cull and a Three- Step strategy was suggested – and therein lies the rub for me! Step 1 is to “see the conservation office take a more active role in the removal and euthanizing of identified aggressive and territorial deer”.
Once all the trouble makers, based on someone’s opinion, are gone we would go to Step 2 – “Relocation” for which partial government funding may be available if the municipality has followed all the right procedures – someday! Step 3 would be the push for amendment of the Wildlife Act to allow “Hazing”; the idea being that if you have trained dogs scare the deer off often enough they will not come back! Good Luck with that!
The report to committee concludes, “This problem was created by mankind and like it or not, it must be corrected and managed by mankind”! Yikes, I say to that! Mankind so far has not had a sterling record when it comes to wildlife. We sent much of it into near extinction and now we are unhappy because it is making a comeback!
I have devoted myself to furthering the humane treatment and understanding of animals, domestic and wild. I can not, with clear conscience, be part of committee deliberations that will sanction the killing and harassment of innocent animals and could possibly lead to the adoption of a cull/kill policy for Princeton.
Karin Green, Princeton