Deer relocation likely on hold until 2013 — mayor

A relocation of Invermere deer probably won't happen until 2013 and depends on the province's interest, says mayor Gerry Taft.

A relocation of Invermere deer probably won’t happen until some time in 2013, says mayor Gerry Taft, and would depend on the province’s speed in getting regulations for such a program in place.

Moving a portion of the district’s urban deer population was one of the suggestions of the Invermere Urban Deer Committee that council agreed to last summer, when it also approved a controversial cull of some of the local herd.

The district applied for, and got, a permit to trap and kill up to 100 mule deer within its boundaries and had originally suggested relocation could follow in the spring of this year. The district proposed to have the province share the cost of relocation, and take a main role in carrying it out.

But Logan Wenham, a public affairs officer at the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, says the current policy is for individual communities to pay for all the operational costs of their deer management.

The province, meanwhile, will help by “taking part in planning committees, providing technical advice, developing hunting regulations, issuing permits and loaning equipment.”

According to Wenham, government biologists have a number of concerns about relocation, “including high mortality, competition with deer in the area they are translocated to, and the inability to adapt, making the ecological value of moving them low or negative.”

He notes relocation is more expensive than culling, though it’s not clear as of yet what the cost per deer would be compared to the $300 + HST per animal budgeted for the cull.

“There’s been an estimate of $1,000 per animal, which is most likely on the high side,” says Taft. “If there were volunteers and other groups involved the cost will be lower. But I guess whether we can fund it would depend on a combination of how much it would cost and then how many animals would be proposed to be moved.”

Taft says there is no money for relocation in the district’s 2012 budget, partially because it doesn’t appear the province will have guidelines for such a program in place before 2013. Should that change, Taft says Invermere would consider setting funds aside.

“It seems from our conversations with the province that it didn’t seem very likely something would happen in 2012,” he says, adding the province doesn’t seem as enthusiastic about relocation as many of Invermere’s residents.

“What we’ve sensed from the province is that they are very reluctant to see relocation happen… It seems like the requirements they’d want to see are going to be quite stringent, and I think it’s fair to say there’s a reluctance to even consider it.”