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LETTER: Let dogs off leash to deal with urban deer

Development is supposed to have negative impacts, but wildlife responds by moving in, not out. 
The Town of Okotoks is conducting an online survey giving residents a chance to have a say on deer in the community.
Humans provide food sources and protection for urban deer.

Dear Editor, 

Isn't it interesting how environmentalists will delay land development projects from pipelines to housing to save wildlife and mitigate nasty human impacts only to find that when the development takes place, wildlife responds by moving in, not out. 

Millions of dollars are spent to discuss and worry over impacts to nature only to find once lands are developed wildlife thrives in proximity to humans. Fences are erected to keep the critters out.  

In days past if you wanted to see elk just hang around the streets of Banff. Want to see bighorn sheep, take a trip out to the cement plant at Exshaw. Noise like rock blasting, grinding and diesel engines don't bother "sensitive" bighorns. 

Want to see deer? Go to your nearest rural subdivision, visit Okotoks or now Diamond Valley. Although the release of pets into the neighbourhood is tightly controlled under bylaw and threat of prosecution, more dangerous bobcats, coyotes and sometimes bigger predators are not uncommon sights in the backyards and on the streets and laneways of Calgary. 

Squirrels, wild hares and rabbits, small chubby dogs on a leash and cats tethered to back doors are popular food items.  

People provide food sources, both bags of grain and landscaping, all tasty stuff. Humans also offer protection from big predators, both wild and domestic. I have notified our conservations officers about the feeding of wildlife, which appears to lead to significant highway/deer interactions in our area, only to be told nothing can be done except maybe putting up a deer crossing sign.  

Banff National Park, a supposed last sanctuary for wildlife, has been so effective in controlling elk populations they now worry they have gone too far. Elk populations once threatening tourists' safety are now struggling to recover from active control measures. Under constant human harassment, elk herds moved out of the park to Canmore. Imagine a national park hostile to wildlife?  

A cull? Sharp shooters have been hired on Vancouver Island to clear a pesky deer population only to cost thousands of dollars per head culled and result in little actual control. Mass wasting disease, introduced by game farmers back in the day, is working its magic on the deer and elk populations in eastern Alberta, however. That human caused plague is very effective, although watching an animal die of this disease over several days is a tough one even for a seasoned hunter.  

So why out of control urban wildlife? When laws were passed controlling the free wandering of pets, wildlife may have interpreted that happening as an opportunity. It's been my observation that wildlife is very good at benefit cost risk reward analysis. Humans not so much. Maybe let the dogs off leash for a week or two and see what happens. 

I know in our rural subdivision the deer are gone when the weekend comes around. City folks come out to visit on the weekend and bring their dogs.  

Deer don't like dogs. 

Ed Osborne 

Foothills County

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