Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Animal Alliance looking forward to relocation trial


Posted December 28, 2015 12:07 pm
Arne Petryshen

Animal Alliance of Canada is one of the project partners in the upcoming recently announced mule deer relocation trial.

A trial project to translocate urban mule deer from four communities in the East Kootenay will begin later this winter. Mule deer will be live-captured in Elkford, Cranbrook, Kimberley and Invermere, and transported to winter range areas in the East Kootenay where natural non-urban mule deer populations have been in decline for several years.

Liz White, executive director of the organization, said they are looking forward to the project.

“As you know, we’ve been part of opposing the deer culls that occurred in Elkford, Kimberley, Cranbrook, Invermere… over the last few years,” White said, adding that when the government decided they would look at non-lethal alternatives, Animal Alliance agreed to participate.

“So that’s what we’re doing in hopes that municipalities will begin looking at a variety of different non-lethal alternatives that I think will begin to help kind of deal with specific issues that culling clearly does not,” she said. “There are animals that they say are a problem, but there’s no guarantee that those animals are the ones being killed in the traps. It calls into question the efficacy of the culling.”

White hopes the government will get on board with the alternative methods, as it is up to it to change the provincial regulations to allow alternatives to culling.
White said that the government agreeing to participate in the relocation pilot is a good indication that the government may be opening up to the idea.

“This is a program that requires engagement by government officials in terms of allowing use of effects on deer that would not ordinarily be allowed, like using drugs on them to tranquilize them and that kind of thing,” she said, adding the provincial veterinarian also has to be involved.

Animal Alliance is assisting in the purchase of radio collars for the relocation study.

The collars will allow for the relocated to be monitored. That will allow the whole thing to be evaluated.

White said it has been quite difficult dealing with the government on these issues in the past.

“There has been over a period of time, resistance to alternatives,” she said, noting that Kimberley had applied a number of years ago to try hazing and got permission for a one-off trial. White said hazing has to happen in a much more planned and coordinated way to work effectively. She added it needs to be combined with other techniques, such as not allowing people to feed deer.

“Most municipalities, Kimberley being the exception, have a bylaw but don’t enforce it,” she said.

White also said that killing the deer doesn’t solve the issue of urban deer.

“If you look at the numbers, I think they’ve had four culls and really the number of mule deer they’ve counted has not gone down substantially,” she said. “It just doesn’t work.”

She noted Animal Alliance was disappointed that Cranbrook proceeded with a cull earlier in 2015.

White said she will be coming to the area to observe the relocation.

“It’s a whole coordinated thing and a whole bunch of people who haven’t really got along very well together in the past are all kind of working together, it’s kind of nice,” she said.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Urban mule deer translocation trial set to begin


Posted December 21, 2015 e-KNOW


After extensive planning and discussions, a trial project to translocate urban mule deer from four communities in the East Kootenay will begin later this winter.

Mule deer will be live-captured in Elkford, Cranbrook, Kimberley and Invermere, and transported to winter range areas in the East Kootenay where natural non-urban mule deer populations have been in decline for several years.

This trial project, which has received widespread support, is a response to the desire of many to find a non-lethal option to reduce urban deer populations. While the hope is that translocation will prove to be a reliable management tool, the current project is designed to scientifically test if translocation of urban deer is humane and effective. Humane treatment of deer is the primary focus throughout the process.

“The objective of this project is to test how urban mule deer respond once they’ve been moved to natural environments,” explained lead project biologist Ian Adams of Cranbrook-based VAST Resource Solutions. “For the project to prove successful, translocated deer must not return to either their home community or any other urban area. From the outset we’ve been clear that deer moved from one community are not to become a nuisance elsewhere.”

Another question is how deer cope with predators.

“A concern of many is that urban deer have become na├»ve to predators,” said Adams. “These are animals that are now accustomed to staring down perceived threats from people and pets, particularly dogs. Whether deer retain some innate memory of predators can only be tested by moving deer from urban areas to natural areas.”

In order to track their movement and survival, 20 of the translocated deer will be fitted with GPS radio collars. The collars are programmed to connect with Global Positioning System satellites, just like a GPS unit used by geocachers or the dashboard of a vehicle.

Up to two locations of the deer are sent daily to biologists to track their movements. A collar will also send out notification if it doesn’t move for eight hours. Biologists will then track it down as soon as possible to determine if the deer has died and, if so, establish cause of death. All deer will have visible ear tags to identify them as translocated urban mule deer.

“The timing of this trial project is great,” said Adams. “B.C. provincial biologists are currently running a similar project on non-urban mule deer, using the same GPS collar technology. We’ll be able to compare movement and survival of translocated urban deer with natural mule deer in the same areas at the same time. It’s an ideal scientific control.”

The communities involved are pleased to have the trial proceed and the opportunity to be involved. Partnerships and cooperation are key to the project’s success, Adams suggested.

This work has brought together provincial and municipal governments, the conservation community and others. Animal Alliance of Canada, which has been forthright in their opposition to culling, supports the project and has contributed financially to its implementation.”

Local wildlife conservation clubs are important partners and strong supporters of the project, volunteering their efforts to help implement the translocation.

"We are pleased to be part of a project exploring alternatives to the lethal management of deer who frequent urban environments,” said Liz White, Director of Animal Alliance of Canada. “We hope that the communities involved will continue to seek alternatives to culling.”

“As a leading municipality on this translocation trial project we are pleased with the partnerships made on this project, and the progress to-date, and look forward to implementation later this winter,” said District of Elkford Mayor Dean McKerracher.

“The issues associated with urban deer are not going to go away,” stated City of Kimberley Mayor Don McCormick. “Municipalities have limited options for dealing with these issues, and translocation seems to be one option that is supported by all interest groups. If successful, translocation will offer far more flexibility than a cull and be a welcome addition to our toolkit.”

City of Cranbrook’s Corporate Communications Officer, Chris Zettel, stated, “For several years now, communities in this region affected by large urban deer populations have been seeking additional tools to deal with the problem. We are excited to be a partner in this trial, which we see as a promising step forward.”

This project is funded, in part, through the Upper Kootenay Ecosystem Enhancement Plan (UKEEP), which is a partnership between the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program (FWCP) and Columbia Basin Trust (CBT). Significant additional financial support has been provided by all project partners.

Partners include: District of Elkford, City of Kimberley, City of Cranbrook, District of Invermere, Animal Alliance of Canada, B.C. Ministry of Forest, Lands & Natural Resource Operations, Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program, Columbia Basin Trust, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers of British Columbia and local Rod and Gun Clubs.

VAST Resource Solutions Inc. is a privately owned environmental consulting company based in the East Kootenay of British Columbia. The company provides professional natural resource management and engineering services to a wide variety of industry and government clients.