Longueuil to cull about 60 deer in Michel-Chartrand park
Last plan to cull 15 deer led to aggressive protesting, but new mayor says she won't back down
Longueuil will cull about 60 deer in Michel-Chartrand park, a large, partially wooded green space in the middle of the city on Montreal's South Shore.
Newly elected Mayor Catherine Fournier confirmed the decision Monday afternoon, saying the park currently has about 70 deer but the ecosystem can only support about a dozen.
"All the possibilities have been studied to ensure the ecological balance of Michel-Chartrand park," said Fournier.
The decision comes after a committee of citizens, experts and scientists, brought together a few months ago, reviewed the situation and submitted a report.
The report, released Tuesday morning, says strong, short-term action needs to be taken because of how quickly the deer reproduce.
A female deer can reproduce within its first year of life and can have up to three fawns per year, which could lead to an "exponential deterioration" of the ecosystem, according to the report.
Fournier said parts of the park have deteriorated to the point that they can no longer regenerate due to the emerald ash borer and the white-tailed deer's diet.
The deer are now living in deplorable conditions, malnourished because of overcrowding, she said.
Short- and long-term solutions
The committee considered several alternatives to culling, including sterilizing the animals, feeding them directly to minimize impact on the park's flora, and doing nothing and accepting the impacts of the overpopulation.
However, the committee found culling the deer was still the best option.
"We will have to take action to immediately reduce the herd," Fournier said.
Longueuil will capture the animals, euthanize them and then donate the meat to community organizations.
The mayor said she has to put in place short- and long-term solutions. The report recommended a sterilization program in addition to the cull in order to manage the deer population going forward.
No date is set for the cull, but the report recommends the work be carried out in the fall of 2022.
The municipality will need approval from the Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks and, from there, will work to ensure the animals suffer "as little as possible," Fournier said.
About a year ago, Longueuil made plans to cull about 15 deer in the park and there was intense outcry from the public.
The former mayor's life was threatened, several protesters were arrested and large-scale demonstrations were held.
One animal rights group tried to come up with a plan to relocate the deer, but Sauvetage Animal Rescue's proposal was rejected in February by a veterinary ethics committee.
The committee found too many red flags in the plan, including concerns that the animals would panic and endanger the lives of everyone involved.
"They can reach a speed of over 40 kilometres per hour, and a male can match Laurent Duvernay-Tardif in terms of size, so imagine deer like that panicking," said Dr. Jean-Pierre Vaillancourt, a veterinarian at the Université de Montreal, who chairs the committee.
In the report, the committee also rejected moving the animals, citing concerns about the welfare of the deer.
Deer are notoriously difficult to relocate, often getting injured or dying in the process, according to experts like Anaïs Gasse, a biologist with Quebec's Ministry of Wildlife. She said last year that many of the deer would die within days if relocated due to how difficult it would be to adapt to new surroundings.
Deer culls aren't uncommon in Quebec due to overpopulation or disease. And Quebec hunters harvested nearly 50,000 deer in 2020, usually averaging around 45,000 per year.
Fournier said about 60 deer will be killed regardless of protests this time around in order to protect the park's biodiversity.
"We are even closer to 100 deer at present, hence the importance of acting quickly," Fournier said.
with files from Radio-Canada