A young buck stops for a snack outside St. Michael’s Catholic Church. The question of what to do to curb negative interactions between deer and town residents has been a topic on Pincher Creek town council’s radar for the last several years, with many residents urging formal mitigation while others feel wildlife encounters are part and parcel of living close to the mountains. Photo by Wayne OliverSean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 29, 2022 at 09:04

By Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Summer is a great time for flowers to bloom and gardens to grow, though it comes with a few risks like the odd frost or tumultuous hail storm. One of the more consistent dangers, however, is having the fruits of a hard-working green thumb gobbled up by a deer.

Concerns about the number of deer within the town limits of Pincher Creek have grown in recent years, and not only among frustrated gardeners: with the deer becoming more and more acclimated to living next to humans, instances of aggression toward people and pets have been reported, along with the potential for motor vehicle collisions.

Pincher Creek council agreed during its April 6 committee of the whole meeting to work with Alberta Environment and Parks to develop a working strategy on minimizing deer habituation within the town. Councillors reviewed suggestions from AEP during their June 13 regular council meeting.

Many of the options came from a report the City of Okotoks put together to manage its own deer problem, which included everything from increased fencing to limiting the number of deer through an immuno-sterilization program or a special short-term hunting allowance.

Okotoks ended up implementing a robust education program for residents and visitors, such as what behaviour inappropriately habituates wildlife (petting, feeding), what deterences can protect property (predator urine, water sprayers, plants to cultivate that deer won’t eat) and publishing information on deer behaviour (rutting season, information on fawns, how to tell when a deer feels threatened).

Council members felt increasing the amount of educational material about deer was a good idea, though Coun. Wayne Oliver said more quantitative data was needed to determine if other mitigation efforts were needed.

“Do we have a sense of how many deer are actually in town? I got a picture of 12 of the guys by the track when I was driving home from work one day, but is there 50 in town? Is there a hundred?” he asked.

“It would just seem that to somehow, someway put a measurement on it and then we can determine if it’s getting better or worse.”

Coun. Oliver also said a multi-year view of how many complaints the town received about deer from residents would help determine what sort of mitigation response was justified.

“The only way to determine the level of annoyance in our community is through that sort of tracking system,” he said.

Coun. David Green agreed, particularly since more information would help develop plans for issues not readily associated with the deer, such as cougars being drawn into town limits when does begin having fawns.

“A little bit of information goes a long way. It’s a picture,” Coun. Green said.

Council directed administration to determine how many wildlife complaints had been submitted to the town over the years and to see if a deer census existed or could be completed.

Additionally, administration was asked to investigate what resources would be needed to improve public messaging about deer on the municipality’s communication platforms.

This item reprinted with permission from Shootin’ the Breeze, Pincher Creek, Alberta