First things first. Let’s call it a mass slaughter and not a “cull”. Using euphemisms belittles us both.
While I can appreciate that several B.C. communities are concerned about the presence of deer, where are the scientific studies to prove that killing them makes any ecological sense?
Right now, several B.C. municipalities are trapping and shooting deer because there is a perceived overpopulation. However, killing dozens of wild animals does nothing to address human-wildlife conflicts. Research shows the remaining animals simply reproduce and other animals migrate to fill in the empty niche.
Furthermore, this slaughter does not address the human behaviours that are at the root of this problem. For years, humans have been killing off the deer’s natural predators such as wolves and coyotes. Some people have also been luring ungulates into our neighbourhoods by feeding them, even though it is against the law.
Despite all this common sense and reasoning, the City of Cranbrook baited, trapped, and shot 25 deer in December 2011. This month, Kimberley is expected to quadruple that number. Grand Forks, Kelowna, Victoria, Saanich, and other municipalities in B.C. (and across Canada) are considering killing urban deer too.
To help pacify those against B.C.’s deer slaughter, officials are claiming the slaughter will be “humane”.
The deer will be trapped in a net and then shot in the head with a captive bolt gun, which is what slaughterhouse workers use on domestic animals such as cows and pigs.
At this point, it would be easy for me to launch into my usual rhetoric about what is wrong with slaughterhouses, but to stay on topic, using a captive bolt gun to kill deer is completely reckless and irresponsible.
Deer are wild animals. Capturing them in nets causes stress and makes them susceptible to limb fractures. Also, captive bolt guns were not designed for wild animals. If the bolt gun misses, the gruesome process has to be repeated. This is completely unacceptable.
If all of this wasn’t bad enough, government officials are claiming the deer meat will be sent to local food banks.
Does anyone really believe that pawning off deer meat on the less fortunate will lessen the cruelty?
In Ontario, you can’t even donate wild game to food banks. Citing provincial regulations, Food Banks Canada recently made a “strong recommendation” to Ontario food banks to reject meat that wasn’t raised in captivity or from a licensed slaughterhouse.
Why should B.C. food banks be any different?
B.C.’s systematic slaughter of these animals needs to stop. It’s not just about the deer either.
Over the past few years, an alarming number of wild animals across Canada have been killed because of perceived overpopulations or human-wildlife conflicts.
Consider this: In British Columbia alone, almost 200 bears were shot and killed by conservation officers in 2011.
Also in 2011, the B.C. government announced open season on wolves. Under the new wildlife regulations, there is no closed season and no bag limit on hunting and trapping wolves in the Cariboo region, which includes 100 Mile House, Williams Lake, Quesnel, and the Chilcotin. This means wolves can now be killed even when their pups are with them.
Coyotes are under attack too. Possibly the most vilified of all fur-bearing animals, just one skinny coyote can enrage dozens of farmers, terrify dog-walkers, and make parents of small children paranoid.
Despite the fact that coyote attacks on humans are extremely rare, the media perpetuates the terror by sounding the alarm whenever a coyote is spotted. Why?
Across Canada, coyotes are hated so much that Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan put bounties on them. In 2010, Nova Scotians killed 2,643 coyotes. From November 2009 to March 31, 2010, 71,000 coyotes were killed in Saskatchewan.
Even little Peter Rabbit isn’t safe.
In 2010, the University of Victoria vowed to kill any rabbit living on campus. More recently, the town of Canmore, Alberta, was ready to blast away their feral rabbit population, estimated at 2,000.
If it wasn’t for animal protection advocates who trapped, spayed/neutered, and sent these rabbits to sanctuaries, all of these rabbits would have been dead.
Our natural world is in serious turmoil. We need to stop messing with animal populations and step back to actually learn about their biology and behaviour.
It is clear our government is failing us, and the media is making matters worse by over exaggerating the situation.
At this point, we need to take responsibility for ourselves, put up fencing, clean up our garbage, plant flowers/vegetables that are unattractive to wildlife, and use either commercial or homemade repellents when necessary. We must also never feed, pet, or try to hold wild animals. A fed animal is a dead animal.
Lastly, if we have any hope of saving the natural world, we have to speak out to our local city council. We need to do everything we can, and with great persistence, to buck the growing trend of sanctioned wildlife kills.
Lesley Fox is the executive director of the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals, a nonprofit animal-protection organization based in Burnaby.