Recently a petition was circulated in a neighbourhood where urban deer populations were considered too high by some residents. Subsequent letters to the editors of the local newspapers about the petition revealed that there is very strong opinion on if and how anything should be done about the increasing abundance of deer.
Hugh decided it was time to inform people about the potential risks associated with overabundant urbanized deer so they can take appropriate actions to mitigate the risks, whether individually or collectively.
The following is his letter to the editor of the August 25th edition of the Kelowna Daily Courier. The editor entitled the letter, Deer Are a Lethal Threat.
To the Editor:
The increasing prevalence of urbanized deer throughout the city of Kelowna (and other towns and cities in BC) is generating a great deal of controversy with respect to the need to manage their abundance. Without natural predators (cougar, coyotes, bears, bobcats and wolves) and with a year-round food supply, urban deer populations are exploding and will continue to do so.
Affected residents are certainly familiar with the damage deer inflict throughout the year to food and ornamental plants, and the subsequent costs to protect, and in some cases replace, the plants with less favoured varieties (to both owner and deer).
However, the overabundance of deer can have much more serious impacts on citizens, and it is these potential impacts that I wish to draw to the attention of your readers.
Deer are hosts of the Rocky Mountain wood tick, females of which can cause ‘tick paralysis’ in children and dogs (among other victims) which can be fatal if the tick is not removed in time. Deer migrating into Kelowna can bring the tick into the city where it can be eventually transferred to and distributed by urban deer. Parents and dog owners will have to be vigilant for attached ticks in the spring to prevent the onset of tick paralysis.
Many residents report that their yards look like a deer feedlot in the spring due to the accumulation of deer droppings over the winter. Deer droppings carry E. coli, some strains of which can cause serious intestinal illness in people.
The increasing prevalence of deer and their droppings will increase the risk of E. coli transmission to people, especially to gardeners and to young children playing on contaminated lawns.
One of the reasons deer like urban environments is the freedom from their natural predators, especially cougars and coyotes. High urban deer populations could attract more predators, increasing the risk of contact between predators and people and their pets, often with unpleasant consequences on both sides.
Anyone who has driven BC highways is aware of the threat of deer suddenly bolting across the highway, especially in the early morning and evenings. Urban deer-vehicle collisions are on the rise according to the BC government. These accidents are not only costly to the ICBC and but also to injured vehicle occupants and cyclists.
Nursing does are very protective of their fawn(s) and will not hesitate to attack any person or dog they see as a threat to their young. Videos have circulated on the internet showing dogs being attacked by does. I recall hearing about a dog-owner in Kelowna having to wave down a passing vehicle so she and her dog could escape from an aggressive doe.
I hope this brief description of the potential impacts of overabundant urbanized deer on the health and safety of citizens gives useful food for thought and informed decision-making.
Hugh Philip, Kelowna
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