Saturday, August 30, 2014

Elk, cougar, mule deer affected by new regulations


by  Trevor Crawley - Cranbrook Daily Townsman
With autumn fast approaching, the provincial government is encouraging hunters to be aware of the latest changes to the regulations before the season opens.
The latest regulation guide, complete with specific information for regions across the province, is out on the shelves, while a version with the most up-to-date information also exists online.
However, there are a few big changes hunters should be aware of this season, according to Tara Szkorupa, a senior wildlife biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Management Branch based in Cranbrook.
Among the major changes of note involve elk, cougar and mule deer species.
For elk, there have been heavy restrictions put in place for antlerless — cow and calf — hunting opportunities in the south trench area stretching from Canal Flats to the U.S. border.
"Those changes are to reduce the harvest on cow or calf elk because we had population decline by about 35 per cent over the last five years, so we're trying to really minimize the harvest on the cow and calf elk," said Szkorupa.
“There’s some very limited antlerless and there’s some very limited general open seasons on private land, but most of the hunting will be through limited entry hunt (LEH) for this year.”
However, in light of the restrictions, there are still a few hunting opportunities available, she added.
“We did extend the bow season for antlerless elk and the intent for that was to continue to provide hunting opportunities while minimizing harvest,” Szkorupa said.
While antlerless elk have restrictions, there is a spike bull season in the south trench.
“This is something that we’ve had for a while to still have hunting opportunity, but when the harvest is focused on the male population, it doesn’t have as much impact on population trend,” Szkorupa said. “So we’re still maintaining that spike bull season so if people are looking for an opportunity for elk hunting, that’s still a good option for people in the trench.”
Mule deer are also facing restrictions, as any buck season is being replaced with a four-point buck season that will end on Nov. 10th. The change comes after meeting with hunters around the region to create a mule deer management plan.
“There was some concerns from some people about low buck ratios in some areas, so that was the main reason for switching the season for mule deer,” said Szkorupa.
Overall, the regional mule deer population is in decline, and biologists haven’t figured out why.
“It’s different in different areas, but overall, populations are down from a year ago. We’re actually just about to start on a big research project, putting radio collars out on mule deer and trying to understand the reasons behind the decline,” she said.
“So that’s going to be a big priority for us over the next few years because there has been some pretty dramatic declines in the populations and we’re not sure how much of that is due to habitat or predation or other factors.”
While there are changes to the mule deer season, it’s business as usual for whitetail season. Szkorupa added that biologists are keeping an eye on the whitetail deer population.
“We had a spike in the female harvest in 2012 when we made some changes to the bag limit. But in 2013, that appeared to drop off, so we’re within our target harvest right now for whitetail, so we decided to maintain the seasons as they are right now,” Szkorupa said. “But it is something we’re monitoring and we’re going to be working on this management statement and trying to really articulate what our objectives are for whitetail deer and we’ll be reassessing the seasons in a couple years.”
Outside of hunting for ungulates, there have been changes to the cougar season, which has been lengthened due to population increases, while a female quota has been removed.
“That’s because the populations appear to increasing in a lot of areas and we feel that a higher harvest can be sustained,” Szkorupa said. “…But we’re still maintaining a female quota in some areas that have a high hunting pressure. In the areas that do have a lot of hunters and a lot of interesting cougar hunting, we are maintaining more restrictive seasons to ensure that we don’t over harvest cougars in those areas.”
Szkorupa adds that along with hunting changes, there have also been new motor vehicle access restrictions put in place in a few hunting areas across the region. She suggests picking up a copy of the latest hunting regulations for more specific details on both the new hunting regulations and motor vehicle access restrictions. More information can also be found online at: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/fw/wildlife/hunting/regulations.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Current, CBC Aug 22 am

The Current, a national CBC radio program in Toronto, hosted by Anna Maria Tremonti, asked DeerSafe to take part in a half hour segment featuring a US author, Jim Sturba, author of “Nature Wars: The Incredible Story of How Wildlife Comebacks Turned Backyards Into Battlegrounds."

Oak Bay mayor Nils Jensen was also invited, and DeerSafe was given 10 minutes of questions by phone to “include a clip or two of your group's thoughts on the planned cull for him to react to.”

Most Canadian listeners will not know Jim Sturba. His inclusion in the dialog on urban wildlife in Canada needs to be qualified by some context with the US “battleground” that is urban deer. Hunter's rights in the US supercede private property owner's rights. Speaking harshly to a hunter that one meets on the road is punishable by law. Another issue in the US that hasn't arisen in Canada to date is the artificial inflation of deer populations by hunting groups who sow fields of deer feed and selectively cull in order to maximize numbers. During hunting season deer/car collisions soar when deer flee hunters across a limitless range.

This makes the participation of a Vancouver Island mayor and a local animal rights group a specious inclusion in a Canadian context.

Jim Sturba: “All the while our well-meaning efforts to protect animals allowed wild populations to burgeon out of control, causing damage costing billions, degrading ecosystems, and touching off disputes that polarized communities, setting neighbor against neighbor.”

Animal cruelty is what has polarized communities, setting neighbour against neighbour. As Canadians we need to scratch beneath the surface of this manufactured issue. Complaints about desimated gardens are at the heart of deer hysteria in British Columbia. The proof is in the letters to local BC municipalities that lead up to a need for “action.” These deer are caught unawares in urban expansion and we need to do things differently.

The Current will air tomorrow morning. http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/mobile/podcasts/podcasts.html

Saturday, August 16, 2014

BC SPCA is Revising Their Urban Deer Position Statement

The BC SPCA is revising their Urban Deer Position Statement. The proposed changes are below. Two hundred and nine deer died by clover trap/bolt gun killing in the Kootenays during the winters of 2012/2013. Vancouver Island communities are preparing to use the bait and trap method this winter. The BC SPCA remains silent on this new approach to culling urban deer.

2011:The BC SPCA is opposed to the inhumane culling of urban deer and encourages the use of non-lethal strategies to address urban deer issues for the long-term. Culling is only a temporary solution and should not be used as the default management practice when communities are experiencing high deer population levels and increased deer-human conflict.

2014: The BC SPCA is opposed to the culling of urban deer when there is a lack of scientific justification for it, or it cannot be achieved humanely. The BC SPCA encourages the use of non-lethal strategies to address increased human-deer conflict as a long-term solution. Culling is only a temporary solution and should not be used as the default management practice when communities perceive or measure, high deer population levels.

2011: The BC SPCA supports activities that aim to prevent conflict and educate residents about how to live in co-existence with urban deer, as the larger problem of overabundance needs to be dealt with sustainably. The BC SPCA is opposed to the feeding of deer which gradually lose their fear of people, pets and our vehicles as a result.

2014: The BC SPCA supports activities that aim to prevent conflict and educate residents about how to live in co-existence with urban deer, as the larger problem of overabundance, or its perception, needs to be addressed in a sustainable and tolerant manner. The BC SPCA is opposed to the feeding and habituation of deer, which causes them to gradually lose their fear of people, pets and vehicles as a result.


BACKGROUND

The BC SPCA understands the management of deer overabundance and tolerance, whether in urban centres or on rural properties, is a complicated issue that requires a multiple strategy approach. Overabundant deer populations result from plentiful resources and low natural predators which are often found in sprawling human-populated areas and where traditional deer habitat once existed.

2011: The relocation of mature deer is contentious as many studies have shown that high mortality and fatal injuries result from the stress of capture and transportation. Further studies have revealed that mortality is also high post-release due to enduring stress from capture and transport, the inability to adapt to unfamiliar territory, and naivety to new predators. The BC SPCA also recognizes that contraception is not available for wild ungulate populations in Canada.

2014: The relocation of mature deer should be approached with caution as studies have shown that high mortality and fatal injuries result from the stress of capture and transportation. Further studies have revealed that mortality is also high post-release due to enduring stress from capture and transport, the inability to adapt to unfamiliar territory, and naivety to new predators. More research is needed to identify conditions for possible successful relocation efforts specific to British Columbia species and terrain.

2014: The BC SPCA also recognizes that contraception for wild ungulate populations in Canada is authorized only for experimental use at this time, and supports pilot programs to test its efficacy for broader applications in future. 

2014: The BC SPCA encourages municipalities to enact and enforce bylaws that prevent the intentional feeding of deer and other wild mammals. Further community-wide measures should include:
Despite being a legal cull authorized under government permit, it may not meet humane criteria as operator experience and equipment efficacy can vary.

2011: The BC SPCA understands the management of deer overabundance, whether in urban centres or on rural properties, is a complicated issue that requires a multiple strategy approach. Overabundant deer populations result from plentiful resources and low natural predators which are often found in sprawling human-populated areas and where traditional deer habitat once existed.

2011: The BC SPCA encourages municipalities to enact and enforce bylaws that prevent the intentional feeding of deer and other wild mammals. Further community-wide measures should include:
- Landscaping education which includes plant species selection, fencing/netting and humane deterrents (motion-activated sprinklers, flagging tape)
- Training residents in non-contact hazing techniques to discourage deer from taking refuge on their properties
- Prevention of deer-vehicle accidents through appropriate fencing, wildlife corridors for safe passage, warning signage for high crossing areas and speed enforcement
- Responsible pet guardians having direct control over their pets, in order to help prevent physical contact between pets and deer

2014: The BC SPCA encourages municipalities to enact and enforce bylaws that prevent the intentional feeding of deer and other wild mammals. Further community-wide measures should include:
- Landscaping education which includes plant species selection, fencing/netting and humane deterrents (motion-activated sprinklers, flagging tape)
- Training residents in non-contact hazing techniques to discourage deer from taking refuge on their properties
- Prevention of deer-vehicle accidents through appropriate fencing, wildlife corridors for safe passage, warning signage for high crossing areas and speed enforcement
  • Responsible pet guardians having direct control over their pets, in order to help prevent physical contact between pets and deer

2011: If a cull is undertaken by a community, it must be carried out in an appropriate season to prevent the abandonment of young. It must also be conducted in a humane, responsible and sustainable manner by qualified and experienced wildlife professionals in accordance with the BC SPCA Hunting Position Statement. A public hunt within urban limits should not be permitted, as the animals targeted by the hunting public may differ from those selected by wildlife professionals. Wildlife professionals should make every effort to minimize the infliction of pain or suffering by using techniques that cause instant death.

2014: If a cull is undertaken by a community, it must be carried out in an appropriate season to prevent the abandonment of young. It must also be conducted in a humane, responsible and sustainable manner by qualified and experienced wildlife professionals in accordance with the BC SPCA Hunting Position Statement. Wildlife professionals should make every effort to minimize the infliction of pain or suffering by using techniques that cause instant death.

2014: A public hunt within urban limits should not be permitted, as the animals targeted by the hunting public may differ from those selected by wildlife professionals. In any case of lethal or non-lethal management, only those individual animals that are the source of significant conflict should be dealt with.

(Proposed revision July 5, 2014)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Why Oak Bay asked for an extension for it's cull

At a recent meeting of the CRD Planning, Transportation and Protective Services Committee, a decison was made to extend the Regional Deer Management project, and an additional $70,000 will be added to the Regional Deer Management Strategy budget, bringing the total for the RDMS to $220,000 to date.

Claiming that it cannot be ready to proceed with a pilot project cull in Septemer, Oak Bay council requested the extension.

Evidently the Board and the Oak Bay council was unaware that culling permits are only issued by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations between November and March.

The claim by Mayor Jensen that the Ministry will not lend Oak Bay the clover traps due to concerns about vandalism was disingenuous in light of a recent article by Arne Petryshen in a local paper, and the July Report Recommendations from Cranbrook, that the Ministry has built ten new traps.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Deer cull delayed

by  Christine van Reeuwyk - Oak Bay News
posted Jul 16, 2014 at 4:00 PM

Speed readers installed in deer hot-spots are the latest step in the deer management plan for Oak Bay. Now council awaits a staff report, expected by fall.

“That’s our next step,” said mayor Nils Jensen. “We’re expecting, by the end of the summer, to get an update from our staff as to where we are on the deer management strategy. It’s an ongoing project and staff are carrying out the terms of reference.”

Part of their work right now is awaiting an update from the province on traps available for use in the planned deer cull.

“Traps have to be used if we’re going to be permitted by the province to cull their deer,” Jensen said. “We had fully expected them to provide those traps but they don’t have them.”

In February, 10 clover traps were stolen from a government compound in Cranbrook where they had just been transferred after use for a cull in the District of Elkford. Six were found nearby, most burned and destroyed. The theft delayed Kimberley’s planned cull of up to 30 mule deer and put a significant dent in the traps the province has to loan to communities licensed to cull.

District staff are also working with the Capital Regional District as it’s a joint urban deer management pilot project between the CRD and B.C. The plan includes spending $12,500 to cull up to 25 deer that would be butchered with the meat, hooves and antlers offered to the Songhees Nation.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cranbrook applies for cull permit

by  Arne Petryshen - Cranbrook Daily Townsman
posted Jul 17, 2014 at 9:03 AM

Cranbrook will be applying for a wildlife permit to cull up to 50 deer in 2014. Council approved the move, which directs city administration to apply for the permit through the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

Mayor Wayne Stetski was quick to point out at the Monday, July 14 meeting, that even if the permits are granted, it would likely be up to the next sitting council to approve any culls, as there is a municipal election coming in November.

"The way I read this one is even if council decides tonight to approve the request for up to 50 deer, for permits that are required, it does not mean that that is going to happen," he said.

"Potentially the decision to cull or not cull may very well be a decision of the next mayor and council," said Stetski.

Coun. Bob Whetham said these are basically the recommendations that came out of the Cranbrook Urban Deer Management deer survey conducted in May. Whetham sits on the committee. The survey pointed to a majority of residents wanting the city to reduce the urban deer herd.

"I think the message is pretty strong that they are asking for support from council to try to do something to mitigate the problem," Whetham said. "Previously we found that all the reported — or nearly all the reported — incidents with aggression involved people with dogs. This time we found that there were people reporting aggressive behaviour even when they didn't have dogs. That's something new to us and I think that's something we have to act on."

He said the options available to manage deer are still limited, as the only option currently sanctioned by the province is culling.

Mayor Stetski noted that he is on a committee looking at translocation of deer.

"Whether or not that would happen this fall, we're still trying to work through some of the details on it," Stetski said. "There certainly is an interest in trying two translocation projects in the East Kootenay involving two communities of which Cranbrook would be one of them. That potentially would have 20 animals move from each of these two communities."

Stetski said it is preliminary at this time and may not happen before October or November.

In the report, the urban deer committee noted that it believes another deer count would be necessary in 2014 prior to conducting any population reduction measures. The province has also purchased 10 new clover trap frames and heavy netting to replace the traps vandalized in Kimberley and Cranbrook earlier this year.

CAO Wayne Staudt said to his understanding, the city would just be applying for the permits and not required to do a cull.

"You need to get in line for these permits and get in line for the administrative process," Staudt said.

Coun. Diana J. Scott said council did get a lot of support from residents for further deer control measures.

"If we don't apply for one and don't get it, then want to do one, we're hooped," Scott said.



Monday, July 14, 2014

Arguing Against Outdated Methods

Columbia Valley Pioneer, Jully 11, 2014

Unedited version of the letter submitted by Kathy Wilson

Dear Editor:

While the retired Conservation Officer from Alberta may have the best of intentions regarding deer, education is the key. Mr. Markham said "It doesn't take an expert to see that the deer in Invermere are overpopulated and in poor physical condition”. Dr. Rick Page, a BC ungulate expert, on visiting Invermere said that we have healthy, stable population. They don’t have chronic wasting disease and they live here because the habitat is suitable. They do not attract predators and even “resident” deer are migratory.

If Mr. Markham has safety concerns for children, why does he advocate for an outdated method of wildlife management that does not work? It is well documented that when deer are killed, other deer move in. Used as a model by the Invermere Deer Committee, Helena Montana is a prime example of this. Since 2008, they have slaughtered 740 deer and will kill another 70 this year. The fact that they continue to kill year after year is proof of the program's ineffectiveness.
Council has decided to kill deer even though there is no wildlife science or risk assessment to support culling. Dr. Page offered to speak with Mayor and council but was met with no response. There are no statistics to support the imagined risk – just complaints. At least 20 people are killed by family dogs every year. Hundreds of people drown at public beaches. Mr. Markham, like council seems to believe that slaughter with no valid reason or objective is reasonable. The mayor himself admitted that killing deer every year will probably make no difference.

Asking taxpayers to kill deer to protect plants is no different than painting your house to protect it from exposure. Since when are we responsible for protecting your flowers?
It's time we start to look at wildlife management methods that are humane, current, effective, and lasting. The district and citizens would both benefit from a comprehensive education plan, strategic fencing practices, bylaw enforcement and planning to improve and create wildlife corridors and habitat. These methods work. If you believe there is a problem, why not want to use methods that works?

Poor decisions were made, challenged, and then vehemently defended. Kimberley, Penticton, and Grand Forks have all opted out of culling. I'm not sure why Invermere continues with outdated methods that don't work, but my guess is that it has little to do with wildlife management, and a lot to do with vindication.

Kathy Wilson
Invermere