02/14/2013 07:28 EST | Updated 04/16/2013 05:12 EDT

BC Deer Cull: Cranbrook Approves Plan Despite Legal Challenge

An eight point white tail, left, and a six point white tail buck with their antlers in velvet play in a farm field while grazing near White Hall, Pa., Tuesday evening, July 31, 2012. (AP Photo/Bloomsburg Press Enterprise, Jimmy May)

CRANBROOK, B.C. - Cranbrook is pushing forward with plans to cull up to 30 mule deer roaming the city, despite pledging last year to hold off from any killings until a B.C. Supreme Court legal challenge is settled.

The city announced Thursday that council made the decision "after much careful deliberation," reads a statement from corporate communications officer Chris Zettel.

"Due to concerns around public safety raised both by the R.C.M.P. and council, the city will not at this time be providing any additional details surrounding the population reduction activities."

The trapping will occur in "several key areas of the community," based on complaints received by both the city and the Conservation Officer Service, Zettel said.

Cranbrook was granted permission to carry out the cull by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations in late 2012.

But with a court case underway in a nearby city, opposition from animal advocates and the possibility the wrong deer were being killed, the city had been refraining from further action.

The city would not provide details on when or where the cull will occur, while council and other staff refused to answer questions from the media.

"The city will provide a comprehensive review to the public once these activities have been completed," said the statement.

A day before the announcement, the B.C. Deer Protection Coalition took out a full-page advertisement in the city's local newspaper asking "Will Cranbrook kill deer this winter? Rumour says yes."

The ad also asked Cranbrook residents to call or email the organization if they see a trap set in the community, saying members of the group will set out to monitor what surfaces.

Colleen Bailey, a spokeswoman for the Humane Treatment of Urban Wildlife, said the group is against the city's decision.

"Culls are cruel and they simply don't work," she said, adding it's their view that public safety is not at risk if the city provides more details.

"This is simply being used as an excuse to conduct the entire operation under the cover of secrecy."

Last April, council approved a second cull of up to 50 deer in Cranbrook. But Mayor Wayne Stetski said in October that the second cull had been put on hold pending legal action over a cull occurring in the city to the north, Invermere.

Stetski said the city wanted to wait in case the court decided there was something "inappropriate or perhaps incomplete" in the public process related to that cull, because the process was the same as being used in Cranbrook.

The city first culled 25 urban deer with clover traps in November 2011, but 11 were the white-tailed variety which was not the intention of the cull.

Cranbrook was the first of three East Kootenay communities to carry out a cull with a provincial license.

Kimberley, B.C., culled 100 deer in January 2012, while Invermere was set to cull 100 deer in February 2012 before a court injunction put a hold on the plans.

The Invermere Deer Protection Society started a civil suit against the District of Invermere, claiming it did not conduct enough public consultation.

Although the court injunction halted the cull for much of February, the society's request to extend the injunction failed and eventually Invermere killed just 19 deer before its permit expired.

In May, B.C. Supreme Court gave permission for the society's civil suit against the district to continue. That case is still before the court. A hearing was set to be held in January, but was delayed.

(Cranbrook Daily Townsman)

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