New round of deer counts coming up

Three more counts are planned for November with the Invermere Deer Protection Society invited to participate.

It’s been nearly nine months since the Invermere Deer Protection Society (IDPS) claimed that the Invermere Deer Committees’ deer counts were improperly done. IDPS members will now have the chance to witness how the counts are done with their own eyes as the District of Invermere (DOI) has invited them to join in on the next round of counts taking place in November.

“At the end of the day, I dispute their claims in regards to the count and how it was done,” DOI Chief Administrative Officer Chris Prosser said. “It’s the standard procedure that any count has followed — I’ve never been part of the count, so I can’t comment, but certainly the comments coming from the IDPS offended those people who were out there counting, and have been involved in other wildlife counts as well.”

The Invermere Deer Committee (IDC) will hold three separate counts this November, occurring over three Saturdays, and IDPS president Devin Kazakoff said his society will gladly take the district up on their offer to have IDPS members join the count.

Kazakoff was a former member of the IDC before being removed by the district. In June, he said that from his firsthand experience, the counts were done by unqualified persons and in some cases, he claimed, even by children.

“The first and foremost thing is to have the proper research done by the proper people,” Kazakoff said at the time. “We advocate for non-lethal solutions if it is determined there are too many deer in town, which we don’t even know if that’s the case.”

Prosser declined to respond to those claims at the time, and said this year there will be no major changes to the way the count is held. He said that from his understanding the district would be split into “quadrants,” and that IDC members and their volunteers would drive through those areas by car. Each car would have at least two occupants, a driver and an observer, and the observer would tally every deer they spotted, young or old, and attempt to make the distinction as to whether they were male or female. Prosser said this particular method is what has been recommended by provincial wildlife biologist Irene Teske, and that she will also be present for two of the counts as an observer. Neither Teske or IDC members are permitted to talk to the media — Teske by the province, and the IDC by the district.

“We have to remember too that these are volunteers, and they aren’t in tune with all the council policy decisions,” Prosser said of the IDC members. “At the end of the day, they’re here to recommend actions to council, not to be accountable to the public.”

Given the way the count is being conducted, when asked if there was anything he would do differently, Kazakoff had one main issue. He argues that counts should be performed every three months in order to get a more accurate representation of population, and that there should be a total of five or six counts before a final estimate is made. He also questions the term “overpopulation” and said it hasn’t been made clear exactly how many deer would be termed as an overpopulation by the district.

“We feel that it’s necessary to do a count every season versus just one or two a year, because you’re not going to get an accurate number,” he said. “Populations fluctuate up and down, and it would probably take five or six counts before you… gauge the population properly.”