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Oh, deer Grand Forks

Deer grazing in Grand Forks; Photo, Mona Mattei
Although the deer count done by the Grand Forks deer committee on Tuesday morning showed less deer population than last year’s fall count, the ratio of fawns to does indicates the herd is on the rise. Brian Harris, wildlife biologist with the Ministry of Environment, said that in natural conditions there would be 25 – 30 fawns per 100 does, this year’s numbers are averaging 70 fawns to 91 does in the city, indicating over double what the herd usually reproduces.
“There was 70 fawns, 13 were bucks which suggests that we’re definitely not seeing the bucks…we know it should be about 5 0/50 so we should be seeing 150 bucks so there’s a fair number out there that we’re not seeing,” said Harris. “We use a calculation of fawns per 100 does that gives a measure of the population. What we have here is 70 fawns to 91 does which works out to about 75 per 100 which is roughly three times what you would need to replace the population. So it is definitely growing. Without any other substantial mortality issues this is definitely a growing population of deer.”
A total of 174 deer were spotted at the unofficial count held this week by the committee, down from the fall count in 2009 by over 30 deer, but members say that the later time may have impacted the count. Usually the count is done around 6:30 a.m., but this one was at 8:30 and the additional human traffic may have caused the deer to be less visible.
In any case, the rising numbers are something the city will have to contend with. The committee went on to review their education plan, start work on an anti-feeding bylaw to present to council, and to develop a community survey to support future decisions on how to proceed.
“I’ve had a number of irate calls from people who are calling for action. I haven’t had too many calls from the likes of PETA or people wanting to save the deer,” said Mayor Brian Taylor. “The big issue has been seniors who have been frustrated and giving up any efforts to garden because they can afford it anymore and they just are totally frustrated with the numbers.”
Harris also presented a portion of a report on urban wildlife management which gives clear options for consideration. These include: conflict reduction options like fencing, hazing and frightening techniques; population reduction options such as relocation, euthanasia, and hunting; and options for city council like bylaws and public education.
Harris advised the committee that Professor Colleen St. Clair, from the University of Alberta is interested in working with the community to try an adversive conditioning program using paint ball guns to discourage the deer from being in the town areas. Granby Wilderness Society representative, Jenny Coleshill, agreed to contact St. Clair about the possible program.
The committee will be presenting to city council on Oct. 4 with their education brochure, survey outline, and management options for consideration in the development of bylaws as well as future decisions. City Councillor Chris Moslin will also be taking the topic forward to a meeting he has scheduled with the Minister of Environment, Barry Penner, during the fall of the Union of B.C. Municipalities meetings.

The next meeting of the committee will be Oct. 12 at 7:00 p.m. at the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary offices.