As Invermere’s deer cull plows forward, not everyone is sitting by to wait it out.
As reported by the RCMP and by District of Invermere (DOI) mayor Gerry Taft, there have been a number of cases of traps either being tampered with, or individuals letting deer out of the traps when found.
“Charges have already been submitted in a few cases,” an RCMP officer told The Echo. “I wouldn’t call it vandalism, but people are letting deer out of the traps, and they will be charged for that. We are taking it very seriously, and as far as the RCMP are concerned, we’re trying to remain neutral, or impartial, but obviously when it comes to a criminal offense, we’re going to pursue that.”
Taft says that at this point he believes 13 deer have been trapped and killed, and that he and councillors Spring Hawes and Justin Atterbury have each had a chance to witness a killing.
“From my perspective there is nothing to hide,” Taft said. “When I watched it was extremely smooth, there was no suffering of the animal.”
The district has up until March 15 to kill 100 deer, but district Chief Administrative Officer Chris Prosser says that they are unlikely to reach that number.
“It’s very slow progress,” Prosser said. “We will be nowhere near what our permit allows, those almost three weeks of delay cost us dearly.”
Traps have been placed almost exclusively on private property to this point, however there have been complaints from the community that the traps are too visible in some cases, with one man telling council at their last meeting that as a parent of a disabled child, he is afraid seeing a trap “would just destroy her.”
Others have complained that they were not notified that traps were being set on their neighbours’ property.
“When traps are placed on private property, the property owner where the trap is placed, it’s their obligation to have the owners [of neighbouring properties] be aware of what’s taking place,” Prosser said. “It’s only adjacent, abutting properties, not any distance around them.”
The district has also faced problems with locations and pictures of the traps being shared on social media sites, which in Prosser’s eyes is unacceptable.
“The traps are on private property, so we’re trying to protect those private citizens that have offered their properties to have deer trapped on,” Prosser said.
“The reality is that practically all the traps are on private property, so to even trip the door or let (the deer out) is trespassing,” Taft added. “We’re also not convinced all these sightings of the traps are accidental… some of the people opposed to the cull have been driving around the community trying to find the traps, and then complaining that they know where they are.”
Vandalizing and/or tampering with the traps is a criminal code offence, and according to Cpl. Parker penalties can range from fines to probationary periods that also include mandatory curfews. For his part, Taft says he is disappointed with the number of attacks directed against the contractors and DOI staff.
“This issue is owned by the council, so to try and take things out on the contractor or the DOI staff is unfair,” Taft said. “They didn’t make the decision, they’re just implementing what council decided, and so the comments, questions, criticism and attacks… all of those things should be directed at council, and not at staff or contractors.”
UPDATE: The Columbia Valley RCMP have issued a statement on the deer cull situation this morning, with more details relating to the charges mentioned above.
Last week the detachment was called out to investigate a disturbance where the contractor hired to complete the cull was blocked from leaving an area and the people protesting his actions caused a disturbance according to information provided.
An adult male and adult female were recognized. Given the circumstances the male and female were advised that recommendations will be forwarded to crown recommending charges of cause a disturbance and mischief. The contractor at that time advised he feared the matter would escalate. No documents were served. Both were advised that they will be requested to provide a statement if they wished, so that Crown has as much information as possible. I recommended they contact a lawyer for advice before providing a statement.
In the early hours of March 5 the contractor and associate were followed around by three vehicles. At one time one of the vehicles pulled up along side the contractor. The message/intimidation appeared clear to the contractor by this action.
In another incident one of the cars was reported to go through a red light. The contractor and associate were unaware of their intentions and contacted the RCMP. The contractor advised he was stopped near Tim Hortons and one of the suspect vehicles that was following, parked closely behind to watch them.
Police were contacted and the contractor was advised to remain at his location and not get out of the vehicle. Two police vehicles responded. An adult female was located parked watching the contractor. She was issued a ticket for going through a red light and cautioned that the next time she does a similar act, applicable charges would be laid if warranted.
The female who was following the contractors parked very close to two large men. Unknown who would instruct a female to do this. She was fortunate that the persons she was following, and now watching for the purpose of video taping, did the right thing: contact the police and remain in the car.
Other less law-abiding and peaceful persons may have taken other tactics. How would any female feel if she was followed by three cars then watched? Not a wise decision to put someone in that position.
The two other cars were located within minutes. One adult male was the same person involved in the first incident. This male was advised that his actions this particular morning would be included in the recommended charges from the first incident. Both males were advised that further actions will be prosecuted under the applicable charges if warranted.
Sections 175 (1) (a) (i) , (iii) Criminal code, 430 (1) (c ) and (d) and Section 264 (1) (a) (c) and (d) of the criminal code are applicable sections that were described to the police. You do the research.
Both males were advised that the police are aware of the sensitivity of the issue at hand and that I have instructed the officers to avoid arresting unless placed in a situation to arrest. We will simply gather all the facts and send recommendations to Crown for their decision if the circumstances so dictate. If the person continues actions that are criminal in nature then section 498 (1.1) (a) (iii) would have to be seriously entertained — hold in custody or release with conditions.
Every member in this community has the right to be safe and not fear for his/her safety. I know many of the people opposed to the cull who have gone out of their way to support those that feel strongly about this, and I know full well that they do not support fear tactics, or want a person or his family to be in fear.Those who continue to do so will lose some valuable support.
I agree with some comments I have read, things are getting out of hand. In order to keep a handle on this I may be getting out of bed at 5:30 a.m. to prevent things getting out of hand. Thing to remember, not all that friendly between the hours of 5:30 and 7 a.m.
The contractor has approached me and we have discussed concerns. I am fully prepared to meet with those that oppose the cull and discuss issues where the police are or may be involved. As always, I prefer lunch or dinner meetings.
— Staff Sgt. Marko Shehovac