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Canadian Projects

Canadian Projects: Deer Culling

Deer Culling

In 2009 animal protectionists in Canada were successful in preventing a planned extension of the legal hunt for white-tailed deer in the eastern townships of Ontario. Deer thrive in the province, south of the boreal forest, and benefit from the mosaic of farmland and woodlots that covers so much of the southern third of Ontario.

But the main challenge to Born Free USA's Canadian office is the continued drive to cull wildlife, particularly but not exclusively focusing on Ontario. We work to protect many species, including the iconic white-tailed deer.

There is irony in the fact that by 2010 a distinct decline in deer was reported, while earlier there were "too many" deer. Of course the decline (if real) now is being blamed on "too many" coyotes — thus we are also fighting continued lobby efforts to cull coyotes. It makes no sense, but culling is not based on logic or understanding.

We have been successful, to date, in preventing a proposed bow-and-arrow cull of deer in Sifton Bog, near London, Ontario. There the "experts" warned of "too many" deer, claiming they were trapped in Sifton Bog, an ecological gem of 50 hectares (about 125 acres) surrounded by urban sprawl. We argued that the deer would come and go in accordance to food availability, and that at any rate the "ecological integrity" of the bog — an ice age remnant of environmental value and interest — was severely compromised by human-caused degradation and the presence of non-native plant species, most particularly buckthorn. Buckthorn is a small, thorny Eurasian tree that out-competes many native trees, and spreads very quickly. It is ubiquitous in much of Sifton Bog. It is not used by many wildlife species.

As to our claim that the deer were not permanent, the following year it was reported that there were only four deer in the bog, down from the high of 52 once reported, but still one deer more than the three that the Ontario government — without any studies to show why — claims is the "correct" number of deer for the bog.

Other concerns included the threat of Lyme disease, carried by ticks that also frequent both meadow voles (also known as field mice) and white-tailed deer, but which has not been found in the area. We discovered that while proponents of the cull claimed that there were more deer hit by cars near the bog than elsewhere, police reports showed the opposite. Because suburban houses are pressed so closely to the edge of the bog, there were complaints of deer damaging private property, but of course no suggestion that deer-proof fencing be installed where that was a concern.

But the issue is far greater than Sifton Bog, and calls for deer culling abound elsewhere. We are also fighting to at least prevent culling of deer on High Bluff Island, Presqu'ile Provincial Park, where we are also in a battle to stop the culling of double-crested cormorants who nest on the island. The deer are intermittent visitors to the island. Unfortunately, culling continues, sporadically, on the mainland. And in 2010 we started to work against a cull of deer in Hamilton, Ontario.

Learn more about Coexisting with Deer — no matter where you live — with our helpful brochure.

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