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Kelowna deer problem could be solved with a bow and arrow

Urban deer conflict is an issue throughout B.C. however, deer chewing through orchards in the Central Okanagan has only just hit the political radar. - Contributed
Urban deer conflict is an issue throughout B.C. however, deer chewing through orchards in the Central Okanagan has only just hit the political radar.
— image credit: Contributed

A Kelowna RCMP officer says he believes the way to save Kelowna orchardists’ deer-damaged crops could lie in careful hunting regulations.

Const. Kevin Hamilton, a life-long hunter who has worked as an RCMP officer in the City of Kelowna for three years, says putting down deer who have been hit by a car is an unfortunate, but all too frequent, part of the job.

“I would say it happens at least once a week,” said Hamilton,  who worked in some of the communities making headlines for deer-human conflict before arriving in the Okanagan.

Conflict between deer and people, ranging from car accidents to does attacking dogs and joggers, has become such a serious issue in B.C. the provincial ministry of environment commissioned the Urban Ungulates Summary Report five years ago to examine the problem.

The work, done by researcher Gayle Hesse, formed the backbone of research for new civic policies on population control in communities like Cranbrook and Invermere.

Invermere is effectively ground zero for the issue at the moment.

The Invermere Deer Protection Society has waged war with city officials over a cull, fighting the municipality in court and on the streets with members sabotaging contractors’ traps.

It’s a messy fight Hamilton believes Kelowna could avoid by working with the province to establish limited entry hunting licences for deer in interface zones, such that the deer heading into towns and cities could be eliminated en route to the food source.

“The problem is, we’ve eliminated the predators in the city,” said Hamilton, noting RCMP and conservation officers are automatically called out to kill any natural predator, like cougars, that show up in response to the increased prevalence of deer. It’s ultimately rendered cities safe havens.

Hamilton could also see permitting bow hunting of deer within city limits.

Bow hunters shoot at close range, and could work with local farmers to help thin the population with far less danger to the general public than allowing hunting with guns.

The issue is only now just reaching Kelowna City Hall, although it was a top discussion point at the recent B.C. Fruit Growers Association Annual General Meeting.

“We had 10 calls last year about deer,” said Ian Wilson, parks services manager, noting none were about deer in orchards.

He said local residents have complained about deer destroying landscaping, and one caller was concerned about a deer hit by a car.

Wilson said the city is monitoring issues from Oak Bay, where 38 deer were maimed in interface conflict incidents in 2013, to the Kootenays very closely.

He suggested the answer may also lie in the provincial Wildlife Sundry Permits, one of which allows farmers to deal with nuisance wildlife for crop protection.

The permit costs $110 and allows a resident to apply to hunt, trap or kill wildlife on his or her own property during the open or closed season provided he or she can provide a compelling reason.

A meeting on the deer issue is set for March 27 out of Penticton and will be headed by WildSafeBC.

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