Penticton’s urban deer will continue to enjoy free reign of the city, after council voted to stick with the current hands-off approach to deer management Tuesday.
City council voted 5 - 2 in favour of a staff recommendation to leave the deer alone and make an effort to work with the RDOS on public education on mitigating deer-human conflicts. The matter was back before council due to a request for a cull by residents at Figuera’s Mobile Home Park last year.
Coun. Judy Sentes spoke in favour of taking some form of action, arguing the city should, at minimum, form a committee in an attempt to hold another urban deer count to update 2012 numbers perceived to be outdated.
“One of the most common complaints, as a councillor that I get, is deer” she said.
Mayor John Vassilaki agreed, saying he’s received dozens of calls and emails recently from residents asking something be done.
“It’s getting bad, there are many areas within the community that I wouldn’t want to take my grandkids to,” he said, referring to large populations he’s spotted off South Main Street, Carmi Avenue or near the city yards.
“You can’t walk over there some days there are so many deer,” Vassilaki said. “We can’t leave it the way it is, we do have to do something... before someone gets hurt."
The rest of council, however, was not on the same page.
Coun. Katie Robinson said people travel to Penticton because of its natural setting, and with that, comes animals. She lamented the fact that the city has been grappling with the issue for decades with little change, suggesting public education around “don’t feed the deer” be increased.
Coun. Julius Bloomfield said Penticton is “very divided” on the “deer question," cautioning against council starting the ball rolling on any sort of deer control committee.
“We are going to end up having to make a decision, and don’t start the process if you’re not prepared to make the decision at the end of it," he said.
Penticton toyed with the idea of urban deer culls or relocation in 2011 and 2014, but initiatives died due to high costs. The 2014 plan to relocate deer to the Penticton Indian Band reserve cost about $1,000 per deer.
Meanwhile, the City of Cranbrook culled 15 deer in 2017 at a cost of $550 each for a total of $8,250.
A staff report to council said Penticton's deer problem is not nearly as bad as cities in the Kootenays that have active culls.
“The communities of Cranbrook, Invermere, Grand Forks and Kimberly have very robust deer management approaches with dedicated staff and functioning committees directing deer counts and yearly culls,” the report says. “The issue in those communities is, arguably, a much greater concern than in Penticton, whereas our deer count identified 49 (counted in 2012) deer, Kimberly counted 200 deer, Grand Forks 174, Cranbrook 92 and 200 in Invermere.”
Council voted 5 - 2 to stick with the status quo, with Vassilaki and Sentes opposed.