Letter to the Editor: Mule deer in decline

In June 2010, some of us began our individual protest.

Dear Editor:

In June 2010, some of us began our individual protest by talking to council members, writing letters and forming the first anti-cull Facebook page. The Invermere Deer Protection Society came together in January 2012 with the shocking Christmas announcement that District of Invermere would start killing deer.

We’d naïvely expected common sense would prevail, but the district made the misguided decision to slaughter deer in a doomed attempt to resolve growing fear and impatience with wildlife. From a viral video, an inflammatory Union of B.C. Municipalities resolution, a Ministry of Environment response and reports, eight short deer committee meetings, a biased opinion survey, and “revisions” of the Kimberley final report — they never questioned the myth of “too many urban deer”.

They ignored the Ministry of Environment’s advice regarding collaboration and focused all funds and effort toward killing, no matter what the cost to our community. They misused unreliable survey results, referenced anecdotes, and ignored thoughtful protest to justify, defend and promote killing. Even before the first committee was formed, it was assumed slaughter would please the majority throughout.

In the East Kootenays and all northwestern U.S. states, mule deer populations are declining. All efforts are now focused towards increasing their numbers. There is no overpopulation in Invermere, and because the slaughterhouse killing method was never meant to be used outside of controlled conditions, culling is not “euthanasia” (killing animals humanely to relieve their suffering).

The district argues that one benefit of killing is the provision of meat. Unwitting Invermere taxpayers then participated in a covert, non-profit, seasonal meat processing industry including slaughter, butchering and meat distribution.

This is agriculture, not wildlife management.

So we are left with property damage and fear of injury as reasons to kill. Yes, there is risk and managing risk is an established science. Reducing the number of deer may reduce the likelihood of an encounter or damage, but will not reduce severity. Like the provincial government, the district is not responsible or liable for the behaviour of wildlife. If we fence to exclude, educate and implement humane, long-term, non-lethal measures we can successfully reduce the already low risk.

If it is merely our intolerance at issue, the district has done little to educate citizens to live with, accommodate and protect wildlife. In a 2009 species at risk report, Invermere’s official community plan is criticized because there is “minimal allowance for wildlife habitat and movement corridors within the plan”.

When our injunction stopped the killing, rather than ending the conflict, council chose to fight on and vilify the deer protection society in their determination to slaughter even a few.

We hope the district will show leadership by rethinking the value of wildlife to foster tolerance and co-existence for wildlife. We recently joined with other groups to form the B.C. Deer Protection Coalition. Our mission remains “advocating and supporting non-lethal deer management through education, research and political action”.

Sue Saunders

Invermere Deer Protection Society