by Mona Mattei on Thursday August 19 2010
Internationally based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) says Mayor Brian Taylor’s idea to cull Grand Forks’ deer population is inhumane and ineffective. PETA representatives, alerted by local residents who heard about the comments in the media by Taylor about an urban deer cull to resolve their overpopulation, wrote saying that culling is not only cruel, but will not fix the problem.
Martin Mersereau, director of PETA emergency response, says that they oppose killing in any way.
“We oppose lethal methods across the board period. But if lethal methods are going to be insisted upon, these are two that absolutely must be turned down,” says Martin. “Lethal methods simply don’t work, and they backfire. I think the mayor should realize that and I hope that our letter made that clear.”
In July, Taylor went to the media with his proposal to cull deer and received nation-wide coverage for his ideas that included selling the meat to visitors at restaurants.
As a result of the reports PETA received, Jodi Minion, wildlife biologist with PETA’s cruelty investigations department, reviewed the B.C. Department of Natural Resources procedures for deer culling that outlines two different methods. The two methods identified are to trap and transport the deer in order to kill them or to use bow hunting. In her Aug. 2 letter to Taylor, Minion says that the “horrific ordeal of transport – rife with loud noises, vibrations, and the smell of fear – is unimaginable. For these wild animals, nothing could be less natural, and little could be worse. Bow hunting deer is also inhumane because many deer who are shot are merely wounded by arrows, and their deaths can be slow and painful – it can take weeks for some animals to succumb to their injuries.”
But Taylor doesn’t feel that a cull is out of the question. “I’m going to recommend culling. (PETA) is accusing me of wanting to trap and torture them and then kill them. Our approach will be a nice clean shot - sharp shooter approach,” comments Taylor.
Martin says that culling deer only creates a larger problem down the road because the attractions that brought the deer to the community in the first place – abundant food and no predation – are still there, and better yet, there’s more of it with less deer.
“Humane methods are the only methods that work in the long run to keep deer numbers down,” explains Martin. “There’s no way to kill all the deer, they’re just going to keep replenishing their numbers. There is a temporary spike in the food supply that results when you kill the deer, suddenly there’s an abundance of resources. So when the “new” deer move in to fill the void created by those killed or removed, they have a smorgasbord in front of them.”
This actually results in increased deer population, says Martin, which will in turn force the city to continue to have to kill the animals – a cruel cycle and a situation that Taylor agrees might take place. Another town that Taylor has been researching that does cull their urban deer has to kill every year. “They cull but they have to do it every year, a certain number every year,” says Taylor. “It’s usually not something that a one shot deal will solve – no pun intended.”
Minion also provided the city with four options that would work for an integrated deer management plan to focus on exclusion and deterrents. PETA specifically recommends a strong no-wildlife feeding bylaw be implemented and enforced, scare tactics and deterrents like motion-detector lights and radios be employed, all sources of food for fawns be identified and managed, and that deer fencing be installed as need to keep the animals out of heavily landscaped areas.
Taylor says that it is not really just about people feeding the deer deliberately, but the abundance of food that is beyond individual’s homes like old fruit trees. “That’s the problem more than people purposely feeding them – it’s the environment. We need to keep being reminded - people created this environment.” Taylor says that in the Okanagan area they have had to remove many old trees to assist in lessening their problem.
Martin disagrees though and says that PETA’s experience is different. “High deer numbers are largely attributable to compassionate people who don’t know any better. Many people love wildlife, they love looking out to see wildlife visiting their areas. I get that. But you can’t put the food out, you can’t bring the deer into the areas. Wildlife feeding is responsible for the majority of culls, no matter the species. Good-hearted residents essentially lure deer into areas where they are unwanted by others,” explains Martin.
Martin also says that this encourages habituation of the animals where they lose their healthy fear of mankind. This can result in aggression and problems in the interaction between humans and animals. According to Martin this is not limited to deer, PETA says they see cases involving many species, “these are wild animals, they need to be left alone. If they are on your property foraging, then enjoy it. But do not encourage that and bring more animals in and next thing you know you have a mayor who’s talking about killing them all!”
The next meeting of the deer committee is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 14 at 10:00 a.m. following their deer count at 6:30 a.m. the same day. It is set to be held in council chambers, but the location of the meeting may change. Contact city hall to confirm.