Parks Canada says 84 deer were shot and killed this month as a part of a controversial program to eradicate an invasive population from Sidney Island.
Residents of the private island voted narrowly in February to support the deer kill, which Parks Canada said is necessary to protect the island’s ecosystem. However, there has been vocal opposition from others on the island who feel the measure is not needed and could be inhumane.
In a media release Tuesday, Parks Canada said during Dec. 1 and Dec. 11, three “highly trained, certified marksmen used globally supported methods to humanely reduce the deer population” on the island.
Sidney Island deer eradication dividing community
That operation involved a mixture of ground-based hunting at night, and shooting the deer from a helicopter during the day.
“Recovery teams reported that the majority of animals were dispatched with a single shot; in the remaining cases, a second shot was taken to be certain of immediate and humane death,” Parks Canada said.
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The hunters, Parks Canada and First Nations recovered about 800 kilograms of meat along with hides and other usable materials that were distributed among W̱SÁNEĆ communities.
Opponents to the deer kill have argued that island residents and hunters have successfully reduced the number of European fallow deer on the island from their peak more than a decade ago.
They have also raised concerns about the $6 million cost of the operation, safety and animal welfare.
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Parks Canada, however, has stressed that the deer kill is not a cull but an eradication.
In an interview in November, Gulf Islands National Park Reserve Supt. Kate Humble said reducing the population — as islanders have done — was not enough, because the deer have always been able to breed and rebound.
“The real objective of this project is the long-term recovery of the forest ecosystem on Sidney Island which has been significantly damaged and degraded due to over-browsing,” she said.
The operation has also won the support of local First Nations.
Parks Canada said it will continue to work with islanders over the coming year to plan for a second phase of the eradication, slated to take place between Fall 2024 and Spring 2025.
That work will involve the installation of a network of temporary fences which will be individually cleared of deer by ground-based hunters and tracking dogs.
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