'We just don't need that negative noise': Kimberley considers abandoning deer cull in favour of relocation

They've had great success with deer culls in Kimberly but now the Kootenay mountain town is arguing relocating deer is a cheaper, more viable option than it used to be.

Translocation has had mixed results but Kimberley's mayor says a recent pilot project gives him confidence

Large urban deer populations can mean increased run-ins with people, pets and vehicles but coming up with a solution everyone can agree on isn't easy. (CBC)

Instead of culling hundreds of habituated deer, the town of Kimberley, B.C., is hoping to simply relocate the problem ungulates.

Four years ago, the municipality was dealing with around 300  deer before a licensed cull removed a third of them and numbers eventually dropped to about 70 deer.

That number is back on the rise as habituated does give birth to multiple fawns and new deer arrive and settle in the area.

"Back in 2012, we only had one option and that was a cull," said Don McCormick, the mayor of Kimberley. "[In 2017] translocation has become a viable option."

Cost of cull on the rise

McCormick said the cost of culling deer is on the rise as contractors have had a few seasons to better understand the true costs of carrying out a cull.

He also pointed to lawsuits and court injunctions, like the one that temporarily halted a cull in nearby Invermere in 2012, as contributing to the rising cost of culling.

The 2012 cull ignited international opposition at a time when the East Kootenay communities of Cranbrook, Kimberley, Elkford and Invermere were all facing large problem deer populations and rising human-animal interactions.

McCormick is hoping to avoid pushback from environmentalists and members of the community who say the cull is cruel and disruptive.  

He said the cull can be quite noisy and often results in bad press that Kimberley, as a tourism-based town, doesn't want.

"Quite frankly, we've got so many positive things going for us, we just don't need that negative noise," he told Rock Cluff, the host of CBC's The Early Edition.

Translocation not perfect

The community of Invermere attempted to relocate some deer, before its cull license was upheld by the B.C. Supreme Court, with mixed results, and many of the deer ending up back in town.

Kimberly has been involved in a translocation pilot project that has had better results, according to McCormick, but the final report which uses data gathered over the last two winters has not yet been submitted to the Ministry of Forests.

The mayor hopes Kimberley will be granted a licence to move the deer after the report is submitted but before mid-February when the window for translocation opens for a mere month.

The biggest limiting factor for translocation will be the scale of the operation, according to McCormick. He said the logistics of moving 20 to 100 deer at a time will take some fine tuning, as only so many deer can fit in a trailer.

The Minsitry of Forests said deer culling is still considered the main method for managing deer populations in B.C.

The ministry said it could not comment on whether translocation will be an approved method until the report is received and reviewed.

With files from CBC Radio One's The Early Edition