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Cranbrook to survey residents on deer cull

Cranbrook residents will be polled for their thoughts on deer culls this year.

At its regular meeting on Monday, Feb. 17, Cranbrook City Council agreed to conduct a survey about urban deer.

Cranbrook has conducted two culls: one in December 2011 and one in February 2013. All meat was distributed to the Food Bank and Street Angels.

It has been four years since Cranbrook last asked residents whether they would support a cull. The online survey was filled out by about 30 per cent of the city's population. About 75 per cent of those who responded said they would like to see at least a 30 per cent decrease in Cranbrook's urban deer population.

But, said Councillor Bob Whetham, that survey was conducted before either of the city's two culls and before the Urban Deer Management Advisory Committee had counted the number of deer in town, a process it now goes through at least once a year.

"I think it's probably timely that we need to go and ask the public, that we are either taking an approach that is acceptable to the community at large or we are not. This is largely a matter of public acceptance."

Whetham, who sits on the committee, said that deer numbers have been fairly consistent since they began counting in 2010.

"There has been something of a decline in the number of mule deer – although I can't say that in my neighbourhood – but the number of whitetail has certainly gone up."

The city is yet to decide whether the survey would be conducted online only, online with some paper surveys available, or paper only with a mail out to all homes.

Councillor Gerry Warner said he doesn't support the city spending any money on the survey when it's clear to him that Cranbrook has a problem with urban deer.

"How much longer do we need to go on debating and surveying? I think this issue is settled and I'd like to go on record now saying that I will support a cull of deer in our city at any time," said Warner.

"I would point out that they did have a referendum in Invermere and it came out 75 per cent in favour of the deer cull. I would venture to say that Cranbrook is a different city from Invermere, and if we had a referendum in Cranbrook, I'd be willing to bet we'd get 95 per cent support for culling deer. The sooner we get on with culling and really dealing with this problem on the ground, the better off we'll all be."

But Mayor Wayne Stetski said that during the last cull in February 2013, the opinions he heard were split.

"I heard equally from those in favour and those opposed during the last cull. It was not one sided in either direction," he said.

"The last survey we had was prior to the community actually experiencing the cull. Now we have had two years with culls and this year without one. So I think it's a good time to go back and measure the public's support or lack of it for a cull or for the other aspects we have been asking for in terms of the tool box."

Council will determine at its next meeting how and when the survey will be available to the public.

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