Penticton city council members and other municipality officials will meet with Minister of Environment Terry Lake next week to discuss the contentious deer management issue.
The discussion taking place during the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) convention was organized so that cities grappling with urban deer matters could come together.
“We are looking at getting more information from the minister so we have a better framework to deal with rather than each doing this separately,” said Anthony Haddad, director of development services.
Along with Pentiction, there is expected to be representatives from Grand Forks, Kimberley, Invermere, and the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.
Pentiction has focused on the issue since residents began complaining about deer getting into backyards and eating vegetation. Some citizens have expressed concerns about deer chasing people.
City staff was asked to address the issue in Sept. , 2011 and presented the council with different options. The council subsequently decided on a deer cull but wanted to do two deer counts first. The first was held in the spring; the second is slated for October.
Although council decided on the cull, which involves trapping the animals and killing them with a bolt gun, they are not rushing into it.
“We want to make sure we are proceeding in the proper way, because there has been a lawsuit in the Kootenays, and we don’t want to face that hurdle,” said Mayor Dan Ashton.
In particular, close attention is being paid to Invermere, which ended up with a lawsuit on its hands after deciding on a cull.
Invermere Mayor Gerry Taft, who will attend the convention next week, said problems began after the council approved the action in August, 2011, based on a recommendation from the deer management committee.
“It really started in December, 2011 when we hired a contractor to move ahead with the cull, and a group calling itself the Invermere Deer Protection Organization got upset and sued the city, claiming emotional damage from the trauma of imagining the deer being killed,” he said.
That group was successful in getting an injunction that slowed down the cull, but when it couldn’t get a second, it moved ahead. Nineteen deer were killed.
The lawsuit continues to wind its way through the courts, and in December, there is court time scheduled for it to go to trial.
Taft said in light of what happened in Invermere, what he calls a precedent setting case, he is eager to talk to Lake.
“We were criticized for picking the lethal option, which was given to us by the province on urban wildlife management, specifically deer,” he said. “And it is potentially a problem which is costing cities a lot. We spent close to $20,000 on the cull itself and legal fees of more than $30,000.”
Penticton allotted $10,000 in its 2012 budget for the cull.
“The city has budgeted for animal control operations, but we are waiting to see the results of the counts to see if that is necessary,” said Councillor Wesley Hopkin. “At this point, we clearly want to learn from those who have gone further than us, like Invermere."