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LETTER: Off-leash dogs aren't answer to Okotoks' deer issues

When we destroy the nature around us, we destroy a part of ourselves. 
SA-Deer Crossing a Road BWC 0232 web
A deer crosses Milligan Drive in Okotoks.

Dear Editor, 

Re: Let dogs off leash to deal with urban deer, Feb. 7 

I can tell you this is a bad idea firsthand. Driving home, travelling well below the speed limit in Okotoks, I nearly hit a deer and a dog (in chase) as they booked it across the road in front of me. 

The dog was obviously full of glee, tongue hanging out, while the deer was wild eyed and stressed, skidding along the snow and ice, running hard to escape. Not cool. 

I jumped out of my vehicle to see if anyone was in pursuit of their dog, but alas, no. The animals were out of my line of sight in seconds. 

Whether you are present or not (as an owner), dogs are unpredictable in their behaviour and their instincts to chase are uncontrollable.  

The comment may be tongue in cheek, or it may be legitimate, but may I remind the letter writer that dog owners face enough discrimination in this town as it is, especially with respect to negative dog-dog encounters, dog-person encounters, roaming, people not picking up, urinating on fences/property, etc. 

As a dog owner, we have to be advocates for our dogs as good citizens. The “solution” lends nothing to this issue, nor does it help the deer population. 

Some people have chosen careers that charge themselves and others with the care and respect of all life. We simply cannot pick and choose which life is more “valuable” than others. Wildlife biologists, conservation officers and people like myself (veterinarians) have an ethical and moral obligation to help animals and society. Yes, I care about your dog, as much as I care about the deer.  

I have lived here for coming on 20 years and I can tell you, as a gardener, I have never had a problem with deer because of how I gardened and managed my property. 

As far as danger goes, they are a prey species with a flight zone. Give them space and do not stare them down as you pass with your dog close to you, on leash. The risk to other property and people will become your liability if you allow yourself to get out of hand and go rodeo on these animals. 

The reality is the deer were here first, and their populations can be studied scientifically. They can be dealt with creatively. Sprawling suburbs and urban planning are, in part, why we have the deer here in the first place – we have wildlife corridors. 

Deer and all the other wild animals are part of those spaces. Acceptance and gratitude are practices that can improve quality of life and reduce fear and anxiety. 

We are a country in need of good leadership right now, and the deer culling debate echoes an ominous level of intolerance. To me, it seems like these are the times we live in. If something (or someone) isn’t convenient, or controllable, it is to be disposed of, like hitting delete on a computer. 

Entire populations of people have been treated the same way; and to me, the deer debate is a similar reflection of how we see our own humanity in a way. When we destroy the nature around us, we destroy a part of ourselves. 

Dr. Shannon Budiselic 


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