Macdonald calls for change to Wildlife Act

Push by MLA to allow deer hazing supported by local deer protection society

Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald is calling on the Ministry of Forests, Land and Natural Resource Operations to change the Wildlife Act to allow deer hazing.

Mr. Macdonald’s comments come after a recent deer hazing demonstration in Kimberley. The Wildlife Act currently prohibits deer hazing and the Kimberley demonstration was only done with special permission from the ministry. Communities in the Upper Columbia Valley and elsewhere in the East Kootenay have had growing populations of urban deer for years. In the District of Invermere in particular the local deer population — and whether or not to deal with it by culling, by hazing, by other means or not at all — has become a contentious hot-button issue.

Deer hazing (also called aversion conditioning) essentially means using trained dogs and dog handlers to chase deer out of urban areas and, by so doing, motivating them to stay out.

“It is clear that local governments need more options in dealing with urban deer,” said Mr. Macdonald in a press release. “ I believe that we need to modernize the Wildlife Act to allow deer hazing in certain circumstances.”

Mr. Macdonald is the opposition critic for forests, lands and natural resource operations.

The Invermere Deer Protection Society had a meeting with Mr. Macdonald before he was re-elected a month and half ago and pressured him to push for hazing, according to society president Devin Kazakoff.

“We’re extremely pleased with Mr. Macdonald’s dedication to help the cause,” said Mr. Kazakoff, adding that there are still quite a few legislative hoops to jump through before hazing could be legalized for Invermere.

“We’re getting there slowly, I hope Mr. Macdonald is able to have some success with this push,” said Mr. Kazakoff.

The biggest obstacle is how professional hazers should deal with the fact that much of Invermere is on private land, he said, adding that deer hazing programs have already been run in Banff and Waterton, but both those towns are in national parks, said Mr. Kazakoff.

“It’s not fair to say that all communities in B.C. can’t use hazing — for some them it can be appropriate,” he said.

The 24-hour trial in Kimberley was extremely successful, said Mr. Kazakoff, adding that if hazing is done by trained professionals, it can be site-specific to small problem areas.

“Although we’re happy about the push for hazing, I want to point out that the Invermere Deer Protection Society doesn’t feel it’s needed at this point, we just want it as an option,” he said. “We maintain there isn’t a problem with deer in town; it’s a problem with people who have bad attitudes about wildlife.”

Invermere residents can and should be taught how to properly behave around and co-exist with deer, said Mr. Kazakoff.

“We’re really supportive of more options,” said Invermere mayor Gerry Taft, adding there’s a lot of ambiguity from province surrounding the use of hazing or other non-lethal options — some technically not allowed under the Wildlife Act — for dealing with deer and that some clarity would help.

“The reality for the District of Invermere is we don’t have any Crown land bordering the district, so it’s unlikely that even if the hazing is allowed to go ahead, that it would be a viable option,” said Mr. Taft. “In general terms it’s great to have hazing as an option, but the reality is it’s not a silver bullet.”

The district has many fences around homes and other buildings and the lack of public land means there’s really nowhere to push the deer into, said Mr. Taft, adding Waterton town has no fences and plenty of surrounding public land (being a national park) and even Kimberley has decent-sized tracts of Crown land nearby.

“It’s a different scenario here in Invermere than in Waterton,” he said. “The reality is there’s no easy answer.”

See next week’s issue of The Valley Echo for Part Two of this story.