Town weighs fertility control as way to manage deer

Okotoks, Alberta, Canada Jan. 21, 2015, -- “It's been successful in the U.S., it’s been used for 25 years in the U.S. – we’re not ground breaking on either deer or horses,” she said. “The PZP has been around for a long time– that’s what’s so good about it, it's tested and tried.”

Whether they’re eating your pumpkins, laying in the middle of a boulevard, or even using crosswalks downtown, deer are a regular sight across Okotoks.

While many residents are happy to watch the deer graze around the community, others have run into conflicts with the animals, whether it be damage to yards and gardens, or vehicle collisions.

Town officials have received numerous complaints about the animals in recent years, and have decided to begin discussions on what to do about the deer in town, if anything at all.

On Monday, Jan. 12, Okotoks parks manager Christa Michailuck presented a number of options to reduce the deer population to town council. Potential options include capturing the deer and relocating or euthanizing them, hunting the deer through a public or private contracted hunt or fertility control methods.

“Those are all last resort. First thing that needs to be done is establish what our baseline deer population is and what it should be, and what are the issues for residents with respect to the deer?” Michailuck said. “Can they be mitigated without resorting to any control options such as deer resistant landscaping, fencing strategies or other associated bylaws like no feeding the wildlife? All of these things that need to occur before one would ever resort to any control methods.”

Michailuck said it’s time to open up the conversation with the public to see where everyone stands on the issue. She said while many people complain about the deer, they receive just as many comments from residents saying they enjoy having the deer in town.

“The process is going to be very transparent to citizens so we can have discussions around the issue, and there’s no one approach that the town is recommending to occur at this time,” she said. “And we’re not even sure any approach needs to occur until we talk to the citizens to find out what the real issues are.”

The town will be holding its first open session some time in late February and is planning to bring in Bragg Creek veterinarian Dr. Judith Samson-French to discuss the various options.

Samson-French has been actively working on managing wild populations of both dogs and horses in Alberta using fertility control, and has spoken with the Town about the option of using contraceptive methods for the deer. Samson-French said the contraception, called PZP, is a vaccine that is administered through a dart and is a humane alternative that has been effective in the United States.

“It's been successful in the U.S., it’s been used for 25 years in the U.S. – we’re not ground breaking on either deer or horses,” she said. “The PZP has been around for a long time– that’s what’s so good about it, it's tested and tried.”

That said, Samson-French noted that she’s looking forward to exploring all of the different options with the town and residents and said there may not even be a need for deer control at all.

“Is that the proper option for the Town of Okotoks? I don’t know,” she said. “Usually when you do population control there's a lot of other things that need to be put in place… we need to know how many deer, where are they? Which quadrant of the city? Why are they a problem in certain areas? So there's a lot of metrics to be put in place.”

Michailuck said they aren’t sure how many deer are currently living in Okotoks, but the Town will likely do a count before summer so they have a better idea or the population.

“There’s timing of the year when you do these things that would be important, with respect to when the foliage comes out it's harder to see into the trees and count the number of individuals,” she said. “When we get the external expert in on the issue they'll be able to advise us what is recommended and how often we do this to look at how stable our population is. Is it going up, or down, or staying the same?... So we'll just wait and see what comes out of the sessions.”

Originally published Jan. 21, 2015, by the Okotoks Western Wheel

Do you like this post?
Information: Animal Fertility Control Vaccine
Learn more about managing wildlife with fertility vaccine