These three deer were spotted happily grazing in yards along Gibbon Street this spring. Despite a common belief that the population is out of control

These three deer were spotted happily grazing in yards along Gibbon Street this spring. Despite a common belief that the population is out of control

Deer population perception inaccurate: ministry

The abundance of mule deer in the Quesnel, Williams Lake, and 100 Mile House corridor may be more of a matter of public perception rather than fact, according to Roger Stewart, director of resource management for the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

The abundance of mule deer in the Quesnel, Williams Lake, and 100 Mile House corridor may be more of a matter of public perception rather than fact, according to Roger Stewart, director of resource management for the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

Stewart’s comments follow a letter written in May by a Quesnel resident who complained about a “veritable plague of deer,” and about seeing six of the creatures in his backyard at one time.

The writer suggested the animals not only destroy vegetation but also pose risks to the travelling public and could attract predators that pose a risk to children and pets.

“I understand that the law prohibits ordinary citizens from taking any meaningful action to reduce or eradicate these pests, but surely something could be done,” the letter says.

However, Stewart says since 2006 the ministry has endeavoured to reduce the mule deer population by 30 per cent.  At this time, the ministry believes it has achieved its target.

The reduction was achieved through increasing hunting opportunities for antlerless deer and through two hard winters in three years. Stewart says harsh winters affect a deer’s ability to survive as well as impacts their productivity come the following spring.

Mule deer, says Stewart, are attracted to urban areas because of the lack of predators in addition to the abundance of food.

“We make communities safe havens for deer. We grow these wonderful nutritious crops for lawns and gardens and we tend to abhor predators so we actively manage for bears, wolves, coyotes and cougars,” he says.

“It’s a safe, food-laden environment so they will focus there.”

The same principle applies to roadway verges, he adds.

“Particularly this spring with there being so much snow so late and so cold with the green up on the shrubs and forage so late that those deer focussed on areas where they were easy to see and people got the impression that there’s lots of deer around. Well the reverse is true. It’s just that the deer are all concentrated in these localities which is normal.”

Stewart says the ministry would like to maintain the population at its current level and rebuild the mature buck component of the population. For the latter goal, the reduction in the number of hunting licences was undertaken two years ago.