Okotoks Council Discuss Resident Deer

Each year, the Town receives a number of complaints regarding the abundant deer population in Okotoks. Concerns regarding both pedestrian and driver safety are forefront, as well as damage to yards and gardens. Deer control is a sensitive topic and has shown to be quite controversial in other communities that have commenced control initiatives.

Okotoks Administration has budgeted for 2015 to undertake public and Council engagement sessions to commence dialogue on the issue and discuss potential control methods. The cost implications of a resulting control program would be proposed in future budgets.

There are pros and cons to each of the options for control, summarized as follows:

Control Method Pros Cons
Capture & relocate Public perception, immediate population reduction Transferring problem to another jurisdiction (likely would not be accepted by another jurisdiction).

Temporary solution as it would leave a void niche to be refilled by new deer or other wildlife.

Likely not as humane as perceived as our urban deer may not be well adapted to a more “wild” environment.

Capture & euthanize Immediate population reduction Public opposition to a cull. Temporary solution as it would leave a void niche to be refilled by new deer or other wildlife.
Controlled public hunting Possible population reduction Increased risk to public safety. Citizen concern around public safety and opposition to hunting. Increased burden on administration, management and enforcement. Effectiveness of control hard to predict.
Sharpshooting by contractor Possible population reduction Public opposition to hunting. Citizen concern around sharpshooting in public places. Effectiveness of control hard to predict.
Fertility control Humane control method, long term effectiveness, and likely well supported by the public, potential grant funding. Relatively new method for deer control in Canada and may require up front approvals.

Deer management is anticipated to be a very sensitive and complex issue and a thoughtful approach to initiating discussions is of utmost importance. The questions of “how many deer are too many” and “what is an acceptable deer population for Okotoks?” also need to be answered.

A Bragg Creek veterinarian, Dr. Judith Samson-French, has been helping control free-roaming dogs in Canadian First Nation’s communities with an immunocontraception program.  She is also working with Sundre to eliminate a controversial feral horse cull and develop a more humane program of control.  She will be presenting to Council in the near future with information on deer management. This presentation will be during the regular council session held in public. The public is encouraged to attend.  More information will be posted as soon as dates and times have been confirmed.