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No deer cull in Penticton, for now

The Penticton City Council has put plans for a deer cull on hold, at least until members learn the outcome of a lawsuit against the district of Invermere.

The council reached the decision this week after hearing a staff recommendation to take no further action on the issue at this time, because there are too many unknowns regarding the court case.

"That case is still going through the courts and we are not allowed to do anything until it is settled," said Councillor Garry Litke. "I also need questions answered about what are the actual number of deer and are they actually creating a hazard."

The problem in Invermere began in December of 2011 when the city hired a contractor to move ahead with a cull and a group calling itself the Invermere Deer Protection Society got upset and sued the city, claiming emotional damage from the trauma of imagining the deer being killed.

The group was successful in getting an injunction that slowed down the cull, but when it couldn't get a second, the city moved ahead with culling about 20 deer.

Invermere Mayor Gerry Taft said because the lawsuit is claiming they didn't consult properly, other communities want to find out whether the consultation occurring is enough or acceptable around deer management options and consideration of culls.

The case is expected to go to trial in January.

In Penticton, staff has looked at ways to manage the urban deer population since September, 2011. The process has included setting up deer counts and talking with other city officials about how they are handling their deer population.

In that discussion, culling the deer has come up as a means of controlling the animals, but  no action has been taken.

In a cull the animals are typically trapped and put down using a bolt gun similar to what is used to kill animals in slaughterhouses.

A deer count has moved ahead with one completed in Penticton in the spring and the other in the fall. The first yielded a count of only 20 deer. in the second count, deemed to be more accurate, 49 deer were observed.

Follow up deer counts are likely to occur as a way of pinpointing problem areas in the city, according to the staff report given by Anthony Haddad, the director of development services.

Johanne Anita, who lives lives on the east side of Penticton where deer sightings are common, said she was glad the city is not moving ahead with the cull for the time being.

"They come down the hill behind my house or down the creek and end up in surrounding orchards eating apples and pears that are on the ground. I even  took care of two babies who were separated from their mother for about six weeks," she said. "They never cause any problems and they are a part of nature.

It's not fair to start shooting and killing them."

Ultimately, Litke feels the matter should be handled by the provincial government.

"Overall I feel it is a provincial issue, because they have jurisdiction over wildlife," he said. "It's not something for cities to have to deal with."

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