The topic of potential deer management initiatives has been a recurring agenda item for Pincher Creek town council meeting agendas, and subtle reminders such as this buck joining the August committee of the whole meeting help keep the issue top of mind for council members. Photo by Wayne Oliver Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 17, 2022 at 07:13

By Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

If you live in Pincher Creek or have recently visited, chances are you have come in contact with some of the local ungulate residents. While many human community members have no issue sharing the town, just as many view the deer as a problem ranging from being a nuisance to gardens and flowers to being a hazard to pets and children.

At the request of Pincher Creek council last month, administration collected information on deer complaints and potential mitigation strategies outlined in a report prepared collaboratively between the town and Alberta Environment and Parks. Both were discussed during council’s July 25 regular meeting.

Unfortunately, the statistics for deer complaints are limited by the town’s reporting system, which lumps all complaints about animals into an animal control category. Since February 2019, animal complaints have decreased from 28 to only one in July 2022.

Additionally, the report included suggestions from the Okotoks deer management project, which Coun. Brian Wright said has limited use locally.

“Get the pots and pans out — that’s more or less what it’s saying,” he said.

Some of the ideas, like putting up signs for when an aggressive deer is in an area, wouldn’t address the problem, he added.

“That’s not going to work. How can that help our community?”

The topic did provide an opportunity for some light-hearted suggestions on potential solutions.

“I think we could actually be innovators in this as well — the possibility of live deer traps is something I’ve been musing about,” said Coun. Wayne Oliver.

“I will let you borrow the flower pots off my front deck as bait because they walk right up my deck to get at those flowers, and then we capture them and then release them some distance from town so they don’t come back.”

Joking aside, Oliver said he wanted to pursue options to quantify the deer issue in town so a reasonable course of action could be taken.

“I would like us to move forward exploring innovative things that might help members of our community,” he said, adding that an initial step wouldn’t have to be complicated.

“I’d love to see if this could be a social media kind of a thing. Who wouldn’t find fun in just taking a picture of your local deer at a set time, at a set day, and send them all to me if you like and I can tally them up. Seems like a pretty straightforward way of doing it.”

And though Oliver recognized half of town residents did not view the deer as a problem, his own experience biking down the road and coming across two bucks — one of which had four-point antlers — made him appreciate concerns over safety.

“We’re concerned about public safety and so many things, and that looks a little intimidating if it’s my four-year-old grandson riding his bike,” he said. “Why should we ignore the 50 per cent of people that are concerned about it and only pay attention to the 50 per cent of the people that aren’t caring about it?”

Providing good information to the public is one important way to address those safety concerns, said CAO Laurie Wilgosh.

“Education is an important component, particularly for some — a percentage — of the 50 per cent that aren’t bothered by deer that may actually be feeding them or enticing them,” she said, adding that she has heard reports of people intentionally leaving out fruit, flowers and even salt licks.

“Education is important, and we’ve never really pursued that with focus,” Wilgosh said. 

Getting community members involved to tally wildlife, said Coun. Sahra Nodge, is a simple strategy that other groups frequently utilize.

“There’s all sorts of animal count things that happen, and people make a real good time of it,” she said. Counts in Waterton, she added, are fairly common and popular events.

“Those ones might be a little bit more exciting than counting deer, but I think there could be fun with this.”

While conducting an informal survey would be one way to gather information, Mayor Don Anderberg said going through the provincial government would provide more reliable data.

“They have the resources, they have the expertise, and it’s their purview,” he said.

“I guess we could find out, but we’re already paying a department through our taxes to do this type of work. If you get an official number, then you may be able to do something with that — if you have an unofficial number, then at the very least you’ve got one more hoop to jump through to get the official number.” 

Council directed administration to look into what steps would have to be taken for an official deer survey through the Alberta government as well as how a local survey with residents could be accomplished.

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