British Columbia

Deer plague B.C. southern Interior town

The British Columbia community of Grand Forks has been overrun by hundreds of deer, and just what to do about the out-of-control population is dividing residents of the southern Interior town.

The British Columbia community of Grand Forks has been overrun by hundreds of deer, and just what to do about the out-of-control population is dividing residents of the southern Interior town.

In one year, 200 deer were killed within town limits, mostly by vehicles, a common problem in many towns across the province.

Some residents want to get rid of the deer altogether, but others say they're a tourist attraction, or that it's people — not the deer — that are the problem.

City Coun. Chris Moslin said everyone has something to say about the huge number of deer that have taken over the streets and yards of the town, located in a fertile mountain valley close to the U.S. border.

"The complaint from educational staff is the school yards. The complaint from vehicle drivers is it's not safe. I get complaints from people [saying], 'I don't like watching this deer with one leg broken hobble around the neighbourhood,' " said Moslin.

Mayor Brian Taylor said there's no easy way to deal with the deer.

"Birth control is not going to work. Relocation is too costly. Shooting the deer? Nah, we'd get such a public outcry," said Taylor.

"We're looking at fencing techniques, habitat enhancement, said Taylor, adding, "We really have to encourage people to stop feeding the deer."

Another problem the city faces is how to pay for the solutions. Finding money could be as difficult as dealing with the deer themselves.

Don't feed the deer

A recent newsletter from city staff asked residents to stop feeding the deer and said the city is also considering a law prohibiting feeding of the animals.

"In fact, handouts from humans may do the deer more harm than good. Feeding deer, especially during winter, maintains artificially high populations that make deer more susceptible to starvation and disease. Deer become accustomed to food handouts and lose their fear of humans, putting both deer and people at greater risk," said the handout.

The deer and the problems associated with them have been around for years. But in an attempt to find a solution, the city recently formed a nine-member deer committee made of biologists, politicans, frustrated citizens and deer-lovers.

Biologist and committee member Jenny Coleshill told the committee she doesn't think the town has a deer management problem — it has a people management problem.

"You're hurting them if you make them domestic. And the problem is we've taken ourselves out of the equation. We don't see ourselves as part of nature anymore. We're not predators anymore, we're not anything. And our relationship with nature just totally changed," said Colehill.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to Grand Forks as a Kootenay town. Grand Forks is in the Boundary region, between the Kootenay and Okanagan.
    Dec 16, 2009 3:30 AM PT

now