Friday, December 8, 2017

Salt Spring Island Deer: Killing to Conserve

Photo credit: Mark Schneider

Salt Spring Island is the most densely populated island in the Capital Regional District. The Salt Spring Island Conservancy was formed to protect, restore, enhance and maintain wildlife habitats and ecosystems on their seven nature reserves. Seven hundred acres of conservancy land represent 1% of Salt Spring Island’s land. These pockets of fiercely defended areas are an admirable attempt to keep housing development, animal agriculture and other business enterprises at bay.

1 of 7 nature reserves on Salt Spring Island

On November 4, 2017 the conservancy opened the Alvin Indiridson Nature Reserve to a local deer cull. This wasn’t the first time. The conservancy has declared indigenous black tailed deer a nuisance on their nature reserves. They have invited the local rod and gun club to kill deer on their lands annually since 2010. This year a notice was posted around the island by an unknown party. It served to highlight a completely unmanaged, unscientific deer cull.


On September 24, 2016 a letter to the Times Colonist by an island resident was critical of the conservancy’s deer cull, stating “The open invitation that has been extended to members of our local gun club on their website to kill animals for sport on conservancy property says: ‘A great arrangement - let’s take advantage of it.’ Personally, I doubt that the conservancy backers or the deer believe this is a “great arrangement.” - John Callas 

A scientific count of deer on the island has never been conducted. A survey of residents’ attitudes regarding deer has never taken place.

The Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation featured Salt Spring Island Conservancy in an article on their blog called “Natural Allies.” They asked the conservancy what prompted them to get together with the Rod and Gun club, and this was the answer:

“[Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation]! In response to this need for capacity, HCTF provided funding to cover staffing costs during the acquisition of the 320 acre Hope Hill Property, which is now known as the Alvin Indridson Nature reserve. In acknowledgement of the fact that HCTF funds come from hunting & angling licence fees, we made the commitment to allow hunting on the property. This was new ground for us. I am really excited about it because of the potential benefit that hunting could have on the Island’s deer situation. There is mounting evidence that an overabundance of deer can have a significant impact on everything from endangered plants to songbird populations, so for us to have a reserve where deer hunting is allowed is almost an ecological imperative.

However, it soon became apparent that we didn’t have the expertise within the Conservancy to manage a hunting reserve, and (naturally) we thought of the local Rod & Gun club.

Robin Annschild, Conservation Director of the Salt Spring Island Conservancy, takes aim beside John Foley, President of the SSI Rod & Gun Club” - Natural Allies blog post, Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation

The conservancy has failed to research the very real consequences of culling deer. Compensatory rebound is a well-documented population dynamic that occurs when herd density is temporarily reduced through hunting. Removing large numbers of deer will produce a increase in the number of fawns born, with does reproducing at a younger age. Studies have proven that after a hunt surviving females produced enough offspring to not only replace those killed, but enough to actually increase the size of the herd. When a vacancy is created by a cull deer from surrounding areas will move into the area.

They have also failed to survey their donors regarding the morality of killing indigenous wildlife on a nature reserve.

The conservancy states on their website: “If, as author J.B. MacKinnon says, we now live in a 10% world - where humans have altered the ecology of about 90% of the planet - we think it’s sensible to set aside a good portion of the island for places where nature comes first, and where human beings bow to nature and alter their actions accordingly.”

By ignoring the science on the culling of deer the Salt Spring Island Conservancy, who hold in trust 1% of the land on the island, has committed the rest of Salt Spring Island to a permanent problem.

Kelly Carson
for Victoria Animal News

Monday, October 23, 2017

Breaking News: Expert Believes Cull of Deer is Necessary

Forest Ecologist Calls For Deer Cull

By Frants Attorp
Special to the Driftwood
The proliferation of deer on the Gulf Islands gained widespread media attention earlier this month when Oak Bay Police Chief Andy Brinton collided with a deer whilst cycling on Salt Spring. Brinton suffered several broken bones but is reportedly going to make a full recovery. The high-profile accident raised the question of whether Salt Spring, like Oak Bay, should consider a deer cull.
* Everyone knows what a financial and social disaster Oak Bay’s 2015 deer cull was. I strongly advise the author to read “An Independent Review of BC’s Urban Deer Management,” McCrory, Paquet and Parr 2017 *
The link to the study is in this article by Animal Alliance of Canada: https://www.animalalliance.ca/campaigns/other-campaigns/deer-in-british-columbia/
One person interviewed extensively was Dr. Tara Martin, a UBC expert in forest ecology who was born and raised on Salt Spring. She believes the deer problem in the Gulf Islands has reached a crisis level and must be addressed as a priority.
According to Martin, there are at least six times as many deer on Salt Spring as is healthy for local ecosystems. “When settlers arrived 150 years ago, there were no more than 1,000 black-tailed deer on the island,” she said. “Today, that number has increased to over 6,000.”
* Another stunning statistic thrown out by someone claiming scientific integrity, with no pretense at corroboration for the claim. *
The population explosion is attributed largely to a loss of traditional hunting by Coast Salish First Nations, and insufficient hunting since. Another contributing factor is the eradication of top predators, cougars and wolves. “There is no longer any top down control to keep the deer population in check,” said Martin.
* That technical term “top down” requires an explanation by the expert in forest ecology. *
Deer overpopulation has been devastating for the local ecology. “Our forests may look beautiful, but they are vastly different than before and in a state of steady decline,” explained Martin. She points out that marvellous wildflowers such as the chocolate lily, the fawn lily and camas, which used to carpet vast areas, have all but disappeared. Also susceptible to over-browsing are shrubs such as Saskatoon berry, huckleberry and red currant. Even arbutus, cedar and Garry oak seedlings are not spared.
* Clearing land for homes and businesses, roads and infrastructure has had a devastating effect on the local ecology on Salt Spring Island. Ferry traffic, visitors hiking to every pristine destination, raising of livestock has had a devastating effect. Personal gardens planted with invasive species, pesticides to keep the aphids off the roses, herbicides to keep the dandelions out of the lawns has had a devastating effect. * 
Deer browsing of the understory is changing the composition and structure of our forests, and this in turn is having a disastrous effect on birds that use that habitat for foraging and nesting. Songbirds such as fox sparrow, winter wren and Wilson’s warbler are becoming increasingly rare. “We are witnessing a cascading ecological collapse due to over-browsing,” said Martin.
* Fencing works. *
There is also the impact on humans to consider. According to Martin, there is an average of one ICBC claim per week on Salt Spring due to vehicles colliding with deer. Some accidents are minor fender benders while others are more serious, involving personal injury.
* There are 52 weeks in a year. Is Tara Martin referring to a particular date range? 2012 - 2015? Or perhaps 2014 - 2017? These are statistics that can be easily followed up with, if only she could provide us with a date range. *
So what is the solution? Martin believes the first obstacle to overcome is the Bambi syndrome which causes some people to value the lives of deer over all other plant and animal species.
* “Bambi syndrome.” Now there’s a term we haven’t heard since 2012, when some Kootenay councilors thought they were being really clever. *
“We have a responsibility to maintain habitat for all species, not just deer,” said Martin. “Yes, deer are beautiful animals, but when there are too many they are tremendously destructive and can drive other species to extinction.
* I can’t touch this comment without bashing my own species [the ‘Unique Super Predator’ Darimont, Fox, Reimchen and Bryan, 2015], so we’ll just have to wait for Tara Martin to clarify her claim. * 
More specifically, Martin wants to see hunting regulations changed to allow a greater bag limit.
* Has Tara Martin asked Salt Spring Island residents how they would feel about people with guns and bows running around their community? I didn’t think so. *
“Two bucks per person is not enough,” she asserts. “And there’s no way to manage the population if hunters aren’t allowed to take females.” She believes hunting is the only cost-effective method of control. Other measures, such as sterilization, are hugely stressful for the animals, extremely costly and often ineffective.
* Sterilization is a surgical procedure that has not been a part of deer management conversations in any province in Canada. Tara Martin is apparently unaware that a pilot project for immunocontraception is currently being conducted in Oak Bay. *
According to Martin, at least a third of the island could be suitable for hunting. This includes First Nations’ land, parks, ecological reserves, forestry lands and other large, private holdings. She would like to see a coordinated effort involving First Nations, BC Parks, the CRD, conservation officers, farmers and local hunters.
“This is a problem we can solve, with tremendous benefits for all.”
* Fencing works. *
Martin would also like to see a change in attitude towards top predators: “There are currently two cougars and a black bear on the island. Let’s allow them to do their job rather than trying to eradicate them. This may involve some changes to how we manage our livestock, such as putting them in at night and having a guard dog, but it is possible.
* It’s highly unlikely that island residents are going to give top predators the run of the island. *
She adds that culling deer will actually make the deer population stronger. A colleague of hers has found high levels of ticks and liver fluke parasite in deer on Salt Spring, which is attributed to their high densities. He has also confirmed that the liver fluke is spreading to livestock. Low levels of the parasite have little effect on animal health, but extreme levels can kill the host animal. Humans, however, are not affected by ingesting the parasite.
* It’s only a matter of time before she cites Lyme Disease as a concern. So far she’s followed all the rules for the vilification of wildlife. *
And what about those pesky rabbits?
* And since we have our guns out, why don’t we just blast away at another species that annoys some of us? *
“They are not native to the island and should therefore be trapped or hunted at every opportunity. They finish up what the deer don’t eat and are contributing to the destruction. Both deer and rabbit are a great source of organic free-range protein. How about serving venison burgers at the Fall Fair?”
* Or how about we follow another cliche and feed them to the poor? *
As evidence that deer control works, Martin points to several small areas on the island that have been fenced off and, as a result, are rebounding to their former glory.
* Yes, folks, fencing works. We’ve been telling you this for years. *
“We have everything to gain by managing the deer population,” she said. “Not only will we reduce the risk to motorists, but also restore our native ecosystems with an abundance of wildflowers and songbirds and at the same time improve the health of the deer population.”

* So, the welfare of the deer is really at the heart of this article.*



Friday, October 6, 2017

38 SIGNATORS SAY GRIZZLY ‘MEAT’ HUNT IS A TROPHY HUNT IN DISGUISE

BCTV, October 6, 2017


Thirty-eight environmental and animal welfare organizations, along with wildlife-based businesses and prominent activists, have signed an Open Letter to the BC Government opposing the continuation of grizzly bear hunting for meat. “The BC government is planning to end trophy hunting of grizzly bears, but will allow them to be hunted for meat across most of the province, except for part of the Great Bear Rainforest,” says Ian McAllister of Pacific Wild.  “We are asking for a complete ban on hunting grizzly bears all over BC.”
The Open Letter says there has never been significant hunting of grizzly bears for meat in BC. “Previously grizzly bears were classified by BC Fish & Wildlife with non-game animals such as wolverines, wolves and cougars,” says Alan Burger of BC Nature. “Hunters were specifically allowed under law to leave the meat on the ground and take only the trophy parts. Many British Columbians are appalled that the government has now invented a grizzly bear meat hunt.”
“People don’t travel hundreds or thousands of kilometres, pay tens of thousands of dollars, and risk their lives shooting at grizzly bears to put meat on the table,” the Open Letter states.  “They largely do it only for trophies and sport.  Even if they have to leave the head, hide and claws behind, they take away trophy videos, photographs and bragging rights. The bears will still be killed for sport”.
The Open Letter disputes the BC government’s claim that hunting grizzly bears is sustainable. “Grizzly bears are a species at risk,” says Wayne McCrory, a bear biologist and Valhalla Wilderness Society director. “For years independent scientists have warned the government that BC may have far fewer grizzly bears than we think”.
“We have thriving grizzly bear viewing and photography businesses in the Interior, just like on the coast,” says famed Kootenay wildlife photographer, Jim Lawrence. “People are thrilled to see these magnificent animals alive and in photographs.
“Stop the Grizzly Killing Society receives comments from many hundreds of people,” says Trish Boyum, who has campaigned tirelessly to protect grizzlies. “It is clear that British Columbians want a total ban on killing grizzly bears across BC, except where they would be hunted by some First Nations People for sustenance and ceremonial purposes.”
“Collectively, our organizations, which represent the majority of British Columbians, urge the BC government not to authorize any further grizzly bear hunting until it has done a full review of public input and the soon-to-be released Auditor General’s report. This is a very critical conservation issue in our province and we have an opportunity to do it right.,” says Dr. Sara Dubois, Chief Scientific Officer of the BC SPCA.
38 Signators:
• Animal Advocates of BC
• Animal Alliance of Canada
• Animal Justice
• Animal Protection Party
• Applied Conservation GIS
• BC Nature
• BC SPCA
• Bears Matter
• Canadians for Bears
• Clayoquot Action
• Craighead Institute
• David Suzuki Foundation
• DeerSafe Victoria
• First Nations Environmental Network
• Friends of the Lardeau River
• Friends of Nemaiah Valley
• George Rammell Grizzly bear activist
• Great Bear Chalet
• Humane Society International/Canada
• Justice for B.C. Grizzlies
• Kootenay Reflections Photography
• Kwiakah First Nation
• West Coast Wild Art Co.
• Lifeforce Foundation
• Ocean Adventures Charter Co.
• Ocean Light II Adventures
• Pacific Rainforest Adventure Tours
• Pacific Wild
• Purcell Alliance for Wilderness
• Save the Cedar League
• Steve Williamson Photography
• Stop the Grizzly Killing Society
• The Furbearers
• Tourists Against Trophy Hunting
• Valhalla Wilderness Society
• Wildlife Defence League
• Wolf Awareness Incorporated
• Zoocheck Canada
OPEN LETTER TO THE BC GOVERNMENT OPPOSING
THE CONTINUATION OF HUNTING GRIZZLY BEARS FOR MEAT
We, the undersigned environmental and animal welfare organzations, and wildlife-based businesses, are pleased that the current BC government is committed to end the trophy hunt of grizzly bears. However we strongly oppose the government’s plans to allow continued grizzly bear hunting, under the pretext of hunting for meat, except for a jointly-regulated First Nations ceremonial/sustenance hunt. Part of the Great Bear Rainforest would have a total ban on hunting, but that’s only a very small part of grizzly bear habitat in BC. We oppose the meat hunt for the following reasons:
1. Grizzly bears are a species at risk. They are blue-listed in BC, and threatened by poaching, human conflicts, habitat destruction and hunting. They have disappeared from 18% of their range in BC. (1) Out of 56 grizzly bear subpopulations in BC, 9 are classified as “threatened” by British Columbia.
2. We expect to see much trophy hunting continued under the guise of “meat” hunting. In the past, virtually all grizzly bear hunting has been trophy hunting, except for First Nations ceremonial / sustenance hunting (which we do not oppose). Many hunters find the meat unpalatable. Grizzly bears were previously included by BC Fish & Wildlife with non-game animals such as wolverines, wolves and cougars. In the past, BC hunting regulations have had a provision allowing hunters to leave the meat on the ground and take only the trophy parts. People do not travel hundreds or thousands of kilometres, pay tens of thousands of dollars, and risk their lives shooting at grizzly bears to put meat on the table. The proposed new regulations for meat hunting will simply disguise trophy hunting as meat hunting. Even if the head, hide and claws are left on the ground, or given to a conservation officer, the hunter will take away trophy videos, photographs and bragging rights. The bears will still be killed for sport.
The BC government is considering various options to distinguish trophy hunting from meat hunting, but they only increase our conviction that this division is unenforceable. For many years BC has been unable to control substantial poaching of bears, how will it account for every trophy part of every bear shot by hunters?
3. The government has claimed the grizzly hunt is sustainable. However, independent biologists have been saying for years that this is not true. We do not even know with certainty how many grizzly bears there are in BC, or how many can be killed without reducing the population. Peer-reviewed studies by scientists have found numerous cases of too many bears being killed (by all causes), even according to the government’s own population numbers. Studies have proven that hunters often kill too many female bears. The European Union investigated BC’s grizzly bear hunt, ruled it environmentally unsustainable, and banned the import of trophies.
4. Closing the meat hunt in a limited area will concentrate hunting in other areas. While the government proposes to stop all grizzly bear hunting in a 230,000-hectare area of the Great Bear Rainforest, this is only a small part of grizzly bear habitat across BC. Grizzly bear hunting in this area will simply move to other coastal and interior areas of the province.
In addition, the undersigned object to the following aspects of the public consultation process for the new grizzly bear hunting regulations.
1. The process only considers how to manage the meat hunt, not whether there should even be a meat hunt. Participants are forced to accept the meat hunt as fait accompli.
2. Poor public access to information. Only those who sign confidentiality agreements can have access to some important information. Only those willing to sign the confidentiality agreements can be “stakeholders”, which receive priority consultation. The government has not released a complete list of stakeholders. The process was not advertised until recently, when it had already been running about a month, unbeknownst to many undersigned organizations. The confidentiality agreements represent muzzling of public organizations and suppressing information.
In June of this year, 23 organizations concerned with the welfare of wildlife sent a letter to the BC government that stated: “The wildlife of the province belongs to all British Columbians, and has by law been held by the government in trust.” The letter came about because the provincial government had been giving hunting organizations and related businesses priority access to consultation on matters related to wildlife, resulting in glaring policy bias.
Today the undersigned organizations and businesses are seeking increased recognition by the government that BC wildlife belongs to all Canadians, who have an equal stake in how it is managed, and an equal right to relevant information. We expect proportionate representation in all provincial wildlife matters. BC has over 1,500 species at risk. Recognizing the worldwide biodiversity crisis, the management of our wildlife must shift away from maximizing how many animals hunters can kill, to the practice of conservation biology to ensure the survival of species at risk.
We hold that the upcoming Auditor General’s report on the grizzly bear hunt — which was due to be released in September — is critical information for all parties to have before making decisions on this issue. Rushing to change the hunting regulations before the report is released wastes the tax dollars that have been spent to better inform decision-making. We urge the BC government not to authorize any further grizzly bear hunting until it has done a full review of public input and the soon-to-be released Auditor General’s report.
Sincerely,
References
1. COSEWIC assessment and update status report on the Grizzly Bear of Canada, https://www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=En&n=A32186C4-1&offset=9
2. Artelle, K. A., Anderson, S. C., Cooper, A. B., Paquet, P. C., Reynolds, J. D., Darimont, C. T., “Confronting Uncertainty in Wildlife Management: Performance of Grizzly Bear Management,” PLOS ONE, Nov. 2013, Vol. 8, http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/file?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0078041&type=printable=

Monday, July 24, 2017

Why Deer Lovers Should Defend Bears


Photo courtesy of Jim Lawrence

We have a new provincial government in power.  The NDP campaigned on the promise that they would ban the grizzly trophy hunt, and we want to see that promise kept.

Many of us know that the hunting lobby has worked closely with the former BC Liberals for sixteen years, and that they've utilized their friends in high places to erode animal protections, increasing hunting "opportunities" in our Province.  Some of us know the close relations between high profile Kootenay hunters and MLAs of the day, and the financial benefits that came their way, and not just in the guide outfitting industry.  But I'll get to that in a minute. 

When the Dogwood Initiative exposed that a $60,000 cheque had been sent to the Guide Outfitters of BC from the trophy hunting organization Safari Club International to boost the BC Liberal campaign, the extent of the corruption came as a surprise.  It shouldn't have.  

In September 2011 the CBC ran an article [Kootenay to Cull Urban Deer] that Cranbrook, Invermere and Kimberley were going to cull their urban deer using a method from Helena, Montana. The method was unheard of in British Columbia.  Deer would be caught in baited traps (called clover traps) during the night, and some time in the early morning hours two contractors would collapse the trap onto the deer, throw their body weight on the animals and attempt to hit them in their heads with a bolt gun that was designed for slaughtering animals in abattoirs. 

The cities of Cranbrook and Kimberley had created deer committees some months before this announcement.  On them were two high profile game hunters; Carmen Purdy and Ron Kerr.  Both Purdy and Kerr quit the committee to travel to Helena, Montana to learn first-hand how the method was conducted.  At the same time, the BC Liberals provided $15,000 to fund the "ground-breaking program" [CBC Nov 2011, These Nets Stop Deer, Not Pucks]. Ten traps were built, two bolt guns and a plastic sled were purchased.

The contracts in the first year were awarded to local hunters, which included Carmen Purdy.  Purdy was culling in Elkford in 2014, where he set traps during daylight hours and an 8-year-old boy saw the cull happen.  Ron Kerr applied to cull Oak Bay deer in 2015, receiving $16,000 to kill 11 deer.  He was the only applicant.

Grand Forks and Invermere secured standing permits to trap/bolt gun their urban deer over five year and three year periods respectively.

The hunting lobby had created for itself a nice little cottage industry, and it came at the expense of peace of mind for most urban dwellers.  Appeals to the province for more humane deer management were met with the statement that culling was the only permitted method to control urban deer.

Our province is long overdue for a science-based, compassionate approach to wildlife management.  One that isn't driven solely by the emotional assertion that hunters have the right to kill animals for their pleasure and recreation. Or pin money.  British Columbian wildlife also belongs to the majority of non-consumptive residents.

There is finally hope that British Columbia has a government that will listen to the majority.

Carmen Purdy receiving the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal from then MLA Bill Bennett


  

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Victoria to seek outside funding for deer control


Photograph By BRUCE STOTESBURY, Times Colonist

Victoria will call on both the province and the Capital Regional District to take a more active role in deer management in the city.
Councillors agreed Thursday to have the mayor write to the premier and to the CRD about the issue. However, they stopped short of allocating any funding in next year’s budget to deer management.
Instead, they directed staff to search for funding opportunities through the province or the CRD to work with the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society to undertake deer-population counts and perhaps have staff do opinion surveys and keep track of the impact of deer. If no external funding can be found, they are to report back to council.
Coun. Charlayne Thornton Joe, who proposed the motion, said the deer issue has to be looked at with a provincial or regional lens.
“I still feel we need to be looking at this larger than municipality to municipality,” Thornton Joe said.
Culling “really doesn’t work [because] when the population is reduced, other deer will come in to replace the deer that have been culled,” she said.
“So if they’re only doing in it one municipality, unless we teach the deer to read, and say ‘no deer allowed in Victoria,’ no municipality is going to be able to catch up.”
Before any deer-management program such as contraception or culling is even considered, the first thing that has to be done is determine the extent of the problem, what neighbourhoods are most affected and the extent of the impact, she said.
“So do we have 30 deer in Fairfield or do we have five deer and everybody is seeing the same deer all the same time?” Thornton-Joe said. “Apparently deer are pretty good at keeping usual routes, and groups like the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society are well educated and counting what trails those routes may be.”
While there is anecdotal evidence that conflicts with deer are on the increase, the extent of the deer situation in the city is really an unknown, city clerk Chris Coates told councillors.
Coun. Marianne Alto said deer are primarily a provincial responsibility. “But I do think that, ultimately, we’ve set a precedent in a number of areas about looking at what the city can do to have some kind of an impact on the local effect of larger problems,” she said.
“This is not going away. I’m not at all convinced on what the way forward is, so I do support this from the perspective of finding out what the baseline is.”
Mayor Lisa Helps supported undertaking the work, but said it shouldn’t be funded through property-tax dollars.
“We only get eight cents of every tax dollar and I don’t think we should be spending property-tax dollars [on the deer initiative]. I do think we will be able to find funding either through this new government or some other means,” Helps said.
Victoria’s appeal to the CRD might not go far. In 2015 CRD directors agreed the region should take only a limited role in deer management.
Oak Bay has been a local leader in trying to deal with deer. In a controversial move, Oak Bay conducted a cull in 2015 that cost $270,000 and saw 11 deer killed over a two-week period.
This year, Oak Bay was awarded a $20,000 grant that it plans to match to radio-collar up to 20 deer and install motion-activated video cameras on trails frequented by deer. The program will be undertaken in partnership with the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society.
Esquimalt conducted a survey last year to gather residents’ views regarding deer and is planning a population count of the animals next year.
bcleverly 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Victoria city council mulls foray into deer management

 / Times Colonist
JUNE 25, 2017 06:00 AM

A deer hangs out in Victoria's Rockland neighbourhood.   Photograph By BRUCE STOTESBURY, Times Colonist

Victoria councillors will decide next month whether the city should get involved in the contentious issue of deer management.
Anecdotal evidence of a growing urban deer population in the capital region includes an increased number of reports of car crashes involving deer.
Saanich police warned residents walking dogs to take caution after people were chased by deer aggressively protecting their fawns. Sightings of deer brazenly grazing their way through residential neighbourhoods are common.
But Victoria city staff say it’s difficult to determine the true extent of the deer situation.
A report to be considered by council in July notes that the city receives occasional complaints from residents. It also says the city has “tools” it could use to determine the extent of the problem in order to develop appropriate solutions.
These tools include population counts, public opinion surveys, public education campaigns, and community advisory committees.
Coun. Chris Coleman says the city will have to wrestle with the deer issue. “I think there are increasing interactions between a growing population of deer, or at least a perceived-to-be growing population of deer, … and a whole bunch of people.”
Three years ago, Coleman conducted a phone survey of 649 Victoria households on a variety of issues, including urban deer and the possibility of a cull.
“I had about a 35 per cent response rate,” he said. “On the deer issue, 69.2 of the respondents said we should have a deer management plan even if it includes a cull. Something like 23 per cent said not on your Nelly, and 7.4 per cent were antiseptic on the issue or had no opinion.”
Seventy per cent of people who responded to an Oak Bay survey last year said the municipality has an over-population of deer, and said they would likely support a tax increase to reduce it.
An attempted cull in Oak Bay in 2015 saw 11 deer killed in two weeks, but created a rift in the community and sparked protests by the B.C. SPCA and animal-rights activists.
Oak Bay’s latest effort at deer management involves a $40,000 project to outfit 20 deer with GPS tracking collars, and to install 40 motion sensor cameras to photograph the animals as they wander its trails. The program, funded jointly by the municipality and the province, is the first phase of a plan to reduce the number of deer through the use of birth-control drugs.
Coleman agrees with a Capital Regional District report two years ago that said Greater Victoria municipalities will have to work together if they want a deer management program to work.
“We’re going to have to get on with it. That won’t make people happy,” he said.

Friday, May 12, 2017

NDP Candidate Gerry Taft nailed for defamation


Supreme Court of BC Justice GC Weatherill has awarded Devin Kazakoff $75,000 in damages plus special costs in his defamation lawsuit against Invermere Mayor and BC NDP candidate Gerry Taft.

“The circumstances of the lawsuit have been very difficult for me,” Kazakoff said in a brief statement after he learned of Justice Weatherill’s 51-page decision.

“While I am obviously pleased lo have had my reputation vindicated by such an award and by the Court’s thorough reasons for judgment, I am also pleased to have this behind me now.”

Kazakoff, an Invermere resident, sued Taft for defamatory comments that Taft had made last year on the East Kootenay News Online Weekly website regarding a very controversial and divisive deer cull in Invermere.

In the readers’ comment section of a story about the controversy Taft wrote:
“Signed by the same Devon [sic] Kazzakof [sic] who was convicted of tampering with and destroying deer traps in Kimberley. I wouldn’t be so quick to believe convicted felons who have extreme positions on animal rights issues and who do not respect the decisions of democratically elected local governments doing what the majority of their constituents want.”
Gerry Taft January 13, 2016, at 6:29 pm

However, at no time had Kazakoff been convicted of a crime. He was arrested for vandalizing deer traps in Kimberley and charged with mischief. Here’s how this was described on pages 8 and 9 of Justice Weatherill’s decision:

“On March 30, 2015, the plaintiff pled guilty in Provincial Court to a single count of mischief under $5,000 in connection with the Kimberley incident. On April 1, 2015, he was sentenced and given a 30-day conditional discharge by the Honourable Judge R. Webb. The 30-day probationary condition imposed on the plaintiff was that he pay restitution of $735.50 to the City of Kimberley, $1,000 (joint and several with his accomplice) to the Ministry, and a victim fine surcharge of $1,040. The plaintiff paid all of those amounts the following day. Accordingly, his discharge became absolute on May 1, 2015 and, as a result, he does not have a criminal record.”

According to the judgment Taft explained his reaction this way:

“The defendant conceded on cross-examination that he only “skimmed” the e-know article at home while eating dinner and published his post a “minute or two later” based upon his “vague memory” of the plaintiff’s court proceeding nine months earlier. He further testified that, at the time of his post, he either had not known or had forgotten that the plaintiff had received a conditional discharge. His post was based simply on his recollection that the plaintiff “had been caught and had pled guilty to a crime and had been convicted”. He admitted on cross-examination that he had no idea as to the charge the plaintiff had pleaded guilty to.”

Justice Weatherill had some harsh things to say about Taft.

In the analysis portion of his decision, pages 27-30, he said he found Kazakoff to be genuine, honest and forthcoming manner. “I have no hesitation accepting his testimony in its entirety,” he wrote.

However, he had little good to say about Taft.

“[106] I find that I am unable to give the defendant’s evidence the same approbation. On non-controversial matters, he testified in a straightforward and forthright manner. However, when his conduct regarding the central issues in this action came to be examined, he became confrontational, argumentative, and often launched into campaign-style monologues in an effort to validate his actions. It was apparent that he viewed many of the questions put to him on cross-examination as an affront to his integrity.

“[107] I found the defendant’s evidence regarding his state of mind towards the plaintiff as well as his understanding of and motivation for the contents of his January 13, 2016 post to be overly rehearsed and disingenuous.

“[108] I do not accept as credible the defendant’s evidence regarding what he knew of the plaintiff’s April 2015 court proceeding at the time of his January 13, 2016 post. The defendant testified that he was certain he knew that the plaintiff had pleaded guilty but was uncertain as to whether he had heard what the sentence was. Yet, the defendant was intimately involved in the deer cull issue from the beginning. It was and had been the subject of significant debate for over three years at the time of the plaintiff’s court proceedings. The defendant’s evidence that he was too overwhelmed by work and sleep deprivation to have been interested in the outcome of those proceedings defies credulity. The wide-spread media coverage regarding the plaintiff having received a conditional discharge would not have escaped the defendant who was the spokesperson for the cull side of the debate and who had been so intimately involved in the issue. I find that the defendant was well aware of the outcome of the plaintiff’s court proceedings in April 2015, and was upset at the result which he perceived was far too lenient. He twice stated during his cross-examination that “many crimes in Canada don’t have a severe enough penalty”.

“[109] Moreover, I do not accept the defendant’s evidence as to his motivation for the January 13, 2016 post. The defendant’s purported sense of obligation as someone involved in the deer cull debate to enlighten the readers of the e-know article about the dangers of accepting as true what had been written in the Press Release and what was depicted in the Video simply does not pass scrutiny. The defendant admitted he had not seen the Video and that there was nothing inaccurate about the Press Release. Why would the defendant feel the need to caution the viewer about an article that was demonstrably true and a video that he had not seen? If the defendant’s motivation was truly to alert e-know’s readers to the other side of the deer cull debate as he claims, he would not have written the words he did.

“[110] I find that the e-know article was viewed by the defendant as an opportunity to vent his pent-up frustration at the plaintiff, who he perceived as a “criminal” and whose opposition to “the decisions of democratically elected local governments doing what the majority of their constituents want” had gone unpunished.

“[111] The defendant’s demeanour changed noticeably during his evidence regarding his having been unaware of the plaintiff’s January 14, 2016 Facebook message to him demanding an apology. He went to some length in an attempt to explain how difficult it was for him to find messages on his Facebook account from people who were not one of his Facebook “friends” because those messages are located in his Facebook message box designated “Other”. Given his long-time active use of Facebook, I do not accept as credible his incomprehensible and confused obfuscation in this regard. The oft quoted phrase from Hamlet came to mind while I listened to him: “the Lady doth protest too much, methinks”.

“[112] Moreover, it defies common sense that a social media-savvy politician like the defendant would have had no interest in reading messages received from “Other”.

“[113] The defendant testified that “if there’s something I wish to say, I say it”. I find that he did precisely that—he intended to attack the plaintiff’s character and integrity and chose his words deliberately.

 “[114] The question is: were those words defamatory of the plaintiff?”

This decision will almost certainly have an impact on the election in Columbia River-Revelstoke. The big question is how much damage will it do to Taft?

When contacted for comment Taft said he was disappointed by the ruling.

“I offered an early apology concerning this matter,” he said in an e-mail to The Revelstoke Current.

“I am disappointed by the judgement and disagree with much of it. I will be consulting with my lawyer about filing an appeal. For now, I am focussed on the election campaign and the issues that matter to the people of Columbia River Revelstoke.”

However, Doug Clovechok, his BC Liberal opponent in the election campaign says this raises serious questions about Taft’s judgment and character.

“The conviction is very clear,” he said. “And this guy wants to be our elected MLA? I think you need better judgment than that. The people of Columbia River-Revelstoke deserve an MLA with the highest integrity,  someone they can trust. And I’m working hard every single day to earn their support on May 9th.”

Voters go to the polls on May 9.