Off the Record: Impending cull is no excuse to feed deer

I would have considered it a classic Kodak moment if it wasn’t for my mixed feelings about an impending deer cull.

I was driving home from the Valley Echo/Pioneer offices last Thursday when I caught sight of a teenage boy standing in the green space by the bridge over the Athalmer train tracks, shaking one of the trees.

As he did this, a handful of nearby deer were feeding on whatever was falling to the ground. I would have considered it a classic Kodak moment if it wasn’t for my mixed feelings about an impending deer cull. Instead, I pulled over to ask what he was doing.

“I’m dropping berries for them, to feed them,” he called back with a thrilled smile. His excitement at being so close to wildlife caused my heart to melt in my chest.

I started to explain how encouraging the deer to feed within district boundaries was part of a bigger problem. The boy’s smile turned upside down, his enthusiasm disappeared, and he began to walk morosely toward the truck with out-of-province plates parked just down from where I had pulled over.

Suddenly, an angry male, presumably the boy’s father, began to yell at me from inside the truck cab. Then the man opened his driver’s side door and hurtled the following rebuke in my direction:

“He’s just dropping berries for them. They’re going to be dead in a couple months. They’re going to cull them, that’s what they do here. Just keep driving!”

And with that, he encouraged the boy to resume what he was doing.

Surprised at being so rudely spoken to, I began to form a reply in my head (writers tend to take a little bit longer with the oral comebacks) before realizing that any attempt to reason with his bizarre logic would fall on deaf ears, so I sank back into my car in silence  and continued on my way, but with my thoughts churning.

I had just spent that entire day at the office working on the 2014 Map Book — the Columbia Valley’s official visitor’s guide.  To be told by a visitor that culling deer is “what they do here” in Invermere after I had spent the day collecting images of wildlife and nature to demonstrate what the valley has to offer was a bitter pill to swallow. But for a cull to be used as justification for helping feed the  wildlife was even worse.

If this random encounter is anything to go by, a new public awareness campaign might be needed before the District of Invermere launches its imminent voter-approved cull.  Otherwise, local conservation officers might find themselves finding individuals who think it’s OK to feed deer because they already consider them dead meat.

Nicole Trigg is the associate editor of The Valley Echo and can be reached at nicole@invermerevalleyecho.com .

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