Thursday, 24 February 2011

Deer article from "Ancaster News"

Deer kill may spur more breeding, zoologist contends MNR report supporting hunt lacks science, committee told


Feb 23, 2011

There are many good reasons to leave the deer at Iroquoia Heights Conservation Area alone, a zoologist for a leading animal-welfare group says – including that they will just breed more if threatened by hunting.

Dr. David Lavigne, science advisor to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, told a committee studying the situation that whether the area has too many deer is a value judgment, not a scientific one.

For that reason, he objects to York University forest ecologist Dawn Bazely’s recent assertion that support for a deer hunt must “overcome the emotionally rooted perception of deer as Bambi.” Lavigne said although Bazely’s assessment of the ecological impact of deer overpopulation is based in science, her conclusion that a hunt is necessary is no more scientific than an anti-hunt “wanted” poster featuring a frightened deer in gun sights.

Scientific discourse “It is full of emotional and political discourse, not scientific discourse,” he told the Hamilton Conservation Authority’s deer management advisory committee.

“People purporting to be scientists will accuse those who are defending the animals as being emotional. Well, humans are emotional, but I don’t think Bambi lovers are any more or less emotional than those who promote culling.” The Ministry of Natural Resources conducted an aerial survey in January 2009 that counted 102 in a 66-hectare section of Iroquoia Heights – 90 more than it considers healthy – and is recommending a cull.

In a presentation last October, Bazely told the committee it’s “not debatable” that deer populations of more than 10 per square kilometre kill future trees because they eat any new growth up to two metres above ground.

While she said any decision to kill deer to save trees is a value judgment, she also accused the Animal Alliance of Canada of exploiting the “Bambi” factor to oppose any hunt and of ignoring the damage deer are doing at Iroquois Heights.

Lavigne, a former University of Guelph zoology professor, said killing the deer may have unintended consequences, including that they will breed more if their numbers drop, requiring ongoing hunts to keep their population down.

But he also cautioned the committee against using a single survey to justify the hunt, criticizing the MNR’s conclusion that failing to act will only see numbers rise.

“How can you talk about a population increase or increased damage when you haven’t established a baseline, collected a series of data points and done the analysis?” Lavigne said.

“This, I would argue, is not science.” Tony Perri, who lives in the area and sits on the authority’s board of directors, said he agrees whether or not to allow a hunt is a value judgment, but his decision will be based on what’s best for humans.

He said there may be ways to avoid a hunt, like better lighting on dark stretches of road where they pose a traffic hazard, but public safety is his priority.

“I can live with them eating my vegetables and I don’t have a vegetable garden anymore.

We still get excited when one of the kids says, ‘Oh, there’s a deer in the backyard.’ Everybody jumps up,” Perri said.

“What I don’t want on my conscience is some parent saying to me the worst thing happened because you guys didn’t do anything about the deer overpopulation.” The conservation authority is seeking the public’s input on the deer debate, including through surveys mailed to about 400 homes in the immediate vicinity of Iroquoia Heights.

The survey is available online at heights-community-survey.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The Weeks Ahead

It has been a busy few weeks to say the least!

Liz was just in Ottawa and will be back there again for another Human - Wildlife Conflict Committee meeting on Tuesday.

The following Wednesday we'll be back on Hamilton for another meeting of the Iroquoia Heights Deer Management Advisory Committee.  Dr. David Lavigne, Science Advisor for IFAW Canada, will be making a presentation on 'overabundance'.  There were a number of residents present at the meeting in January because of the controversy surrounding the Dundas Valley deer hunt that happened in December.  I suspect that there will be several residents present again.

This Thursday Liz will be at a Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) meeting regarding geese.  The TRCA has been very progressive on cormorants, so it is our hope that a similar approach will be taken with geese, indeed with all animals under the purview of the TRCA.

We continue to work with residents in Howley, NL to care for a colony of feral cats.  Just this morning we were contacted by a resident of Corner Brook on the same issue.  There are so many good people working to help these unfortunate creatures, it gives us great hope that things are moving in the right direction.  Rescue groups all over the world are scrambling to help these homeless cats, and a number of excellent documents have been produced in the process.  A number of municipalities and rescue groups in the United States have set the bar pretty high!  For 2011, both Toronto Animal Services and the Toronto Humane Society have a goal of sterilizing 500 feral cats each.  We have confidence that this goal can be met and exceeded in the years to come.

And all this amidst other on-going issues...Thank you to everyone for making this work for the animals possible!

Lia, Liz and the AAC crew