'They just skitter everywhere': Kelowna residents urge city to cull urban deer

Residents in Kelowna’s Upper Mission neighborhood are urging the city to cull a deer population they say has become a nuisance and affected their livelihoods.

City received an average of 5 to 10 complaints each year until 2016, when it fielded 29

Residents in Kelowna's Upper Mission neighbourhood are fed up with the recent influx of urban deer. (JL1967/Flickr)

Residents in Kelowna's Upper Mission neighbourhood are urging the city to cull a deer population they say has become a nuisance and affected their livelihoods.

More than 1,000 signatures have been collected in a petition calling on the city to introduce a deer management program.

Karin Arkinstall hasn't signed the petition, but agrees the city needs to intervene. She says deer have ravaged her apple orchard over the past four years.

"There are simply too many of the mule deer that have become urbanized. They eat my raspberries and my flowers and my gardens," she said.

The deer have started to eat the growth shoots at the bottom of her trees, which means her trees no longer produce apples.

Arkinstall says neither deer repellant, nor a dog on the property, have warded off the deer. The animals have also snuck past her newly installed fence.

"Have you ever tried to shoo away deer from an orchard? They just skitter everywhere," Arkinstall said.

The B.C. Fruit Growers' Association has called on governments to take action against growing urban deer populations.

The association passed a resolution at its annual convention in February asking municipalities to implement deer culling and other wildlife management practices.

Spike in deer complaints

But the City of Kelowna won't yet say whether it will try to curb the animals.

"Once we've gathered all the information and received this so-called position, we can properly assess our position," said Blair Stewart, the city's park services manager.

Whether Kelowna's deer population has increased is unknown, Stewart said. But complaints have recently spiked.

The city received an average of five to 10 complaints each year until 2016, when it fielded 29. This year, 25 complaints have been made so far.

Stewart said the complaints are "not of the same nature" compared to other municipalities.

"People need to be able to understand, sometimes they can't plan the same landscaping they do up in the hills in Upper Mission, as they would downtown," he said.

"A cull is not going to be a silver bullet, if we don't change our ways and adjust the way we currently live. The problem could still exist anyway."

Other B.C. municipalities have recently adopted the controversial practice.

In Dec. 2016, the province gave funding to three municipalities — Invermere, Grand Forks and Elkford — to cull their deer population.

In February, the City of Cranbrook killed 15 habituated deer.

If a cull is undertaken, the province requires communities to make full use of healthy deer carcasses, such as donating the meat to First Nations or local food banks.

With files from CBC's Daybreak South