by Barry Kent MacKay,
Senior Program Associate
Senior Program Associate
Born Free USA’s Canadian Representative
Sometimes the human ability to think rationally asserts itself.
Consider Cranbrook. It’s a town of some 20,000 people nestled in the scenic Kootenay Valley, in southeastern British Columbia, just north of Montana’s northwest corner. Among its many charms is the presence one of the world’s most fascinating animals (once you get to know them): the mule deer. (To get an understanding of just how wonderful they are, watch this video.)
One of the great charms of the mule deer is its intelligence and boldness, so different from the flighty white-tailed deer I can see roaming behind my own back fence, in a residential area north of Toronto. But unlike our white-tails, mule deer, a western species are in decline in many parts of their range, including B.C. There is a multitude of possible reasons for the species’ decline and no one is entirely sure why.
But, that decline is not evident within Cranbrook and other towns in the region, where it is not unusual to see the deer wandering about the streets and lawns. And, not only are there residents who don’t like having deer munch the garden flowers, defecate on the front lawn, or trot into a line of traffic, but they fear them.
That fear was greatly stoked by a video from 2011, showing a doe with a fawn, stressed by a cat and people crowding around, finally attacking an elderly dog. Whenever there is an incident involving a deer on the attack, there seems to be a dog involved, and yet throughout the Kootenays, unlike my own community, I see no evidence of leash laws, let alone enforcement of them.
No matter; the resolution was to use clover traps to catch the deer and kill them (see this video).
But, it didn’t work. The deer were killed randomly, whether or not they had ever posed a risk to dogs or humans, and the numbers of deer did not go down, only up, as we pointed out to the Cranbrook town council, again and again. Finally, at a council meeting last November, a few brighter municipal politicians began to realize that they were throwing money away and not achieving desired results.
The province, which could license the necessary research into deer behavior to attain knowledge on how to really resolve issues, is under pressure to address the two contradictory concerns: the decline in mule deer and the concerns of communities where deer can be a problem for some folks. But, the province refuses to cooperate.
So, while they’re still killing deer in Cranbrook, wasting money, contributing to the overall fall in deer numbers, there is now at least now an inkling that rational thought is kicking in, with other communities holding off culling, and even supporting much-needed scientific research. And, at least the province reduced hunters’ bag limits this year from three to one. A hunting moratorium would make more sense, but it’s a baby s step in the right direction.
Keep Wildlife in the Wild,