Following an injunction, protests and an as of yet unresolved civil suit, it looks like Invermere’s deer cull will be moving ahead after all.
On February 24, the Supreme Court of British Columbia denied a request from the Invermere Deer Protection Organization (IDPO) to extend an injunction that has halted the proposed cull of 100 deer since February 9.
“We’re happy that a further injunction has not been granted,” District of Invermere (DOI) mayor Gerry Taft said. “It’s been a frustrating process that involved a lot of time and energy on the parts of council and the DOI, as well as time and money with our legal council in Vancouver. We’re hoping to start (the cull) as soon as possible… there will be traps set tonight.”
The cull was one of several deer control measures council first agreed upon at a DOI meeting in August of 2011. The district applied for and received a cull permit from the provincial government earlier this winter. Other recommendations adopted by council, including a deer relocation program and community fencing, are still in the planning stages.
“We haven’t given up yet,” Vince Zurbriggen of the IDPO said of the court decision. “(We’re hoping) that some sense will prevail. Some people very much believe that this is not right, to just kill animals because we made a mistake — there should be better ways, and this is a very drastic way. Killing 100 deer will not solve the problem.”
The IDPO sprung up just before the cull was set to move forward, and is described as a grass-roots organization whose objective is to “protect wildlife and find humane solutions to any kind of problems that arise with them,” according to organization president Devin Kazakoff.
The group believes there was not enough public consultation prior to the cull being approved, and has been vocal in its advocacy of alternative deer control measures, including contraceptives and relocation.
The cull has dominated discussion in the community in the recent months, with a number of Facebook groups both for and against the cull gaining hundreds of members, leading to some nasty comments from both sides amid the discussion.
“It’s a big issue, and the worst of it is that it has pulled the town apart,” Zurbriggen said. “It pits people against each other so badly.”
Despite the IDPO’s best efforts, the district now has up until March 15 to proceed with the cull. Taft says that while the district has a permit to cull up to 100 deer, it’s unlikely that they will be able to reach that number due to time constraints, as a recent cull in Kimberley took about two months to reach a similar goal.
“One thing that we’re concerned about is potential vandalism to the traps, or any kind of civil disobedience from people who feel really strongly on the issue,” Taft said. “I think it’s really important for people to take into account their own safety… there have been Facebook suggestions of people chasing deer out of town with their dogs to avoid having the deer be captured, and on the surface that seems a potentially very dangerous idea.
“When this cull is over we’d like to work with everyone, including members of the IDPO, to work on all the other options to make sure that another cull doesn’t have to happen. At this point we’re asking for co-operation and that people don’t ‘take things into their own hands’ — it’s gone through the process, and it’s gone through the court system and it’s time to accept that this is the course that we’re going until March 15. After that point, we can explore all the other options.”
While this appears to conclude this chapter of the debate, the future may well bring more difficulties for both Taft and the DOI. According to Zurbriggen, one woman who has strenuously objected to the cull from the very beginning is now seriously considering a hunger strike in protest, despite his best efforts to convince her otherwise. Also, while Zurbriggen has not had contact with the IDPO’s lawyers since the decision, Taft said his legal council was “left with the impression” that the IDPO and their lawyers would likely appeal the latest decision.
Finally, the civil suit against the district by members of the IDPO is still looming, though Taft said it likely will not be heard by the courts until June.