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Penticton  

Deer populations declining

It may be hard to believe for people living in the bottom of the Okanagan Valley, but mule deer numbers have been on a steady decline in most of B.C.

New hunting regulations proposed by the provincial government are aiming to address this by lowering the mule-deer bag limit to one buck across the Okanagan, Thompson, Kootenay, Cariboo, Skeena, Omineca, and Peace combined.

Right now, hunters can take three bucks across the regions, but the province wants to cut that to one per hunter.

The province says mule-deer hunting pressure in the Okanagan is up around 25 per cent between 2011 and 2015, and changes are needed to prevent more drastic season restrictions in the future. The change should reduce the harvest by five to 15 per cent.

The Southern Okanagan Sportsmen's Association agrees with the changes to the bag limit, but would like to see more regulation on habitat restoration by forestry companies in the area.

“There are roads just about everywhere now,” director Mathew Lewis said, “We are not seeing government taking a stand on making any sort of positive changes towards habitat restoration after logging companies are out of the blocks.”

“They are just replanting them into high-yield forests and the recovery has been almost non-existent,” he added.

Other proposed changes coming to the Okanagan will see the late youth-only season and late bow season completely closed.

To compensate, the province will open up a youth-only antlerless hunt in the valley bottom to mitigate urban deer.

“It’s a big approach, that they are going to have to design and custom tailor fit to our region,” Lewis said.

He suggested the province could reduce the general open season on any buck in the Okanagan, or increase antler requirements. Both would still allow hunters to get outdoors, while reducing the total number of deer taken.

People have until Jan. 18 to comment on the proposed changes.

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