Two years ago, Denise Pallesen was walking her dog down a city sidewalk when she was stalked by a wild animal – a deer.
“It put its head down and it started to snuffle and snort and it was pawing at the ground, and I’m thinking, ‘I have no place to go,’ ” said Ms. Pallesen, a Cranbrook city councillor.
Fortunately, Ms. Pallesen and her dog escaped the confrontation unharmed. But she said it’s due to the increasing frequency of such incidents – and especially the fear that children could be attacked – that she voted in a council meeting this week to trap, kill and butcher up to 50 urban deer this year.
The cull, tentatively scheduled for fall, follows a similar one late last year that killed 25 mule and whitetail deer in Cranbrook. The 2011 cull was considered a successful pilot project, said Jeff Morgan from the Ministry of Environment.
Still, the number of urban deer in the Kootenays continues to increase, along with the reports of attacked pets and damaged property. Cranbrook Mayor Wayne Stetski said that between 2010 and 2011, complaints about aggressive deer “more than doubled.”
In 2010, an amateur video of a deer in Cranbrook became a viral hit, garnering millions of views on YouTube. In the two-minute clip, a doe attacks a pet dog on a city sidewalk. She repeatedly stomps and kicks the black border collie while the videographer cries out for help.
The mayor, city councillors and Ministry of Environment sources all said the video was a tipping point. “That video was a major trigger for communities to take the urban deer issue very seriously across the Kootenays and … British Columbia,” Mr. Morgan said.
The only two votes against this year’s cull came from Mr. Stetski and Councillor Sharon Cross.
“Any time you kill an animal, it’s an emotionally charged issue,” Ms. Cross said. Both she and Mr. Stetski said they are not in outright opposition to the cull. Instead, they would prefer to see different options explored, such as transporting the animals outside the city.
The plan is for a contractor to trap the animals, kill them with a bolt gun and deliver the carcasses to a licensed game butcher.
The meat will then be donated to local food banks and first nations. Last year, this resulted in a donation of more than 500 kilograms of deer meat, City of Cranbrook spokesman Chris Zettel said.
Bob Whetham, a councillor who sat on the urban deer management advisory committee, said the urban deer population is rising because of the lack of natural predators in the city. In the wild, their numbers are kept in check.
“That’s why we’re electing to do the cull,” he said. “We need to do what nature does. … Nature’s cruel.”