Invermere deer cull falls short of goal

Despite permit for 100 deer, contractor put down 19 animals. District will not seek to extend the cull.

Though the District of Invermere only killed approximately a quarter of the deer it originally aimed to cull, mayor Gerry Taft says there is no appetite for extending the operation.

While the district had the option to apply for a five day extension of its provincial permit, which allowed it to cull up to 100 urban deer, Taft told a busy audience at Invermere’s March 13 district council meeting the community won’t be taking that step.

“We’re pretty tired. It’s been a really difficult process. It’s been a hard couple of months,” Taft said. “It’s just to the point where I think we’re all ready for it to be over.”

As of March 15, when the district’s provincial permit for the cull expired, contractors had put down 19 deer — fewer than the City of Cranbrook, which killed 25, and Kimberley, which put down 100 deer.

With the cull complete, members of the Invermere Deer Protection Organization (IDPO) were also at council to discuss how those on both sides of the issue could work together on dealing with deer.

“We really need to address the vision of the community over this issue,” Charles Laphier told council during a presentation on behalf of the IDPO.

“I would be willing to work with you and come up with solutions. I think with talking we can come up with good solutions for this problem.”

Formed earlier this year, the IDPO was responsible for an injunction that halted the deer cull for nearly three weeks at its outset, which district staff blame for the low number of deer culled.

That legal action was part of an ongoing lawsuit against the district, which has yet to be settled — and which could hamper reconciliation efforts, members of council said.

“How do we share with someone that wants to sue the pants off us? That’s something we have to think about,” said councillor Greg Anderson, one of several who quizzed the group about whether it would be willing to drop its civil suit, which seeks unspecified financial compensation for “nuisance and emotional pain.”

“With working together, and with trying to have a position of mutual trust, there is some awkwardness for us and potentially some legal issues for us… if the lawsuit which is against us stays in place,” added Taft.

Laphier said he personally felt the lawsuit was necessary as “a stopgap to draw attention.”

“I can’t apologize for what we did because I felt we had to take action, as a member [of the IDPO],” he added.

Councillor Justin Atterbury was less enthused about the suit, which the district has spent more than $25,000 in legal fees to deal with so far.

“Was that a good use of that money in the valley?” he asked, adding he worries the lawsuit will set a precedent for the town.

“My fear is the next group that’s upset with a decision… are they going to take us to court? And we can go to court and get it thrown out, but it still costs the taxpayer a one per cent tax increase.”

Atterbury added he personally doesn’t want the district to communicate with the group unless the civil suit is dropped.

That may be a possibility.

Laphier said he’ll discuss the issue with the group, and IDPO president Devin Kazakoff, who was also at the meeting, said the group would be willing to discuss the suit.

“We can settle this out of court if you want to work with us,” he said.

According to Laphier, the IDPO has already formed its own Solutions Group to discuss deer management.

He says he’d like to see council get to work on a number of deer management options that could include education campaigns, better enforcement of anti-feeding bylaws for wildlife and “soft hazing,” where deer would be encouraged not to fawn in certain parts of town using sprinklers and other devices.