Nova Scotia

Truro to vote on crossbow cull of growing deer population

Truro, N.S. residents will vote on whether they support a managed hunt for urban deer with a bow or crossbow on their municipal ballot. The town has been trying to manage a deer problem for the past few years, but numbers keep going up.

'It's a mess and there's just too many of them,' one resident says

A doe and two fawns cross some grass in Truro on Sept.11, 2020. The town's large urban deer population has gotten out of hand and residents are being asked whether they support a cull. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

When Truro, N.S., residents cast their municipal ballots next month, they'll be voting on a four-legged problem alongside mayor and council.

The town has been trying to manage a deer problem for the past few years, according to mayor Bill Mills.

"Our deer population is exploding," Mills said. "People are not planting flowers like they were before. Shrubs are damaged, all kinds of things."

After three years of working on a plan with the provincial Department of Natural Resources, Mills said the last step is asking the public whether they support a deer cull.

Residents will be asked a yes or no question: do they support a managed bow/crossbow hunt to "control and reduce" the urban deer population?

Last cull caused concern

Mills said they will then have a good gauge on how the community feels about the situation. He said they have also learned from their mistakes.

There was a controlled hunt in the upper area of Victoria Park two years ago, where volunteers could fill out an application, then go hunting for deer with a crossbow. 

Town staff spotted a couple hunters who had left the hunting area and seeing people walking through the park with crossbows made people "very uncomfortable" and some were afraid to go into the green space at all, Mills said. 

Mills said this hunt will be different and they are working out the details of what that might look like now. He said they have also had offers from groups who could come in and do a controlled hunt for the town.

Bill Mills is mayor of Truro. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

The town's deer have been rising in numbers, Mills said. A count of their droppings for 2020 was up 79 per cent over last year.

Another major concern is that the deer are also bringing ticks into Truro, Mills said. One resident showed him a photo of a deer with 10 or 15 ticks on its back. 

Mills said he knows how serious the tick and Lyme disease problem has grown on the South Shore and doesn't want that to happen in their area.

Feeding continues despite warnings

Some residents continue to leave food out for the deer despite repeated warnings.

"You will see people open their second-storey apartment window and throw out carrots and other things, and that's completely unacceptable," he said.

In 2015, a Truro woman was ticketed $233.95 for violating the town's bylaw governing feeding wild birds and animals, and Mills said he's thought about bringing in a steeper fine if things don't change.

Resident Karen Brodeur said she has mixed feelings about the situation. 

She doesn't usually support hunting, but agreed that the town is in "a bit of a predicament" with the deer bringing some dangers into the town limits.

Other Truro locals told CBC a hunt might be the only option because deer are always wandering into the roads and leaving large amounts of droppings in backyards.

Leslie Learning said her family doesn't put out a garden anymore because the deer destroy everything.

Although the deer are cute, she said she would support a cull.

"It's a mess and there's just too many of them," Learning said.

Truro residents vote on Oct.17 and Mills predicts the deer decision will be "very close."

With files from Paul Palmeter