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Deer lawsuit battled out in B.C. Supreme Court

The Invermere Deer Protection Society's lawsuit against the district of Invermere was finally heard in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on October 10th and 11th, a year and a half after it was first filed.

The judges rulings were set to be read at about 9:30 a.m this morning (Friday October 25th), well after the Pioneers Wednesday press deadline.

The Invermere Deer Protection Society's legal argument had three main points a procedural fairness argument, a jurisdiction argument and an unreasonableness argument, according to the groups lawyer Rebeka Breder.

This is such an important issue that the petitioners (the deer protection society) should have had a chance to give their input into the decision making process before the decision (to cull) was made, said Ms. Breder, speaking about the procedural fairness argument. What we say is there is a difference between providing comment (letters to the editors and the opinion survey on the deer cull) and providing meaningful input such as attending the deer committee meetings.

Ms. Breder added that although the deer committee meetings were technically open to the public, no agendas, location and times for them were posted or advertised. In a nutshell, in the jurisdictional argument we say that the district did not have jurisdiction to pass a resolution to cull deer, said Ms. Breder.

The unreasonable argument, she added, holds that the decision to cull deer was not reasonable under the circumstances for a number of reasons, including that the deer count was unreliable, the opinion survey on the deer cull was unreliable, there was no opportunity for community input during Deer Committee meetings and no other alternatives to the cull were seriously considered.

Our position was outlining the length of extensive consultation we did (before making a resolution to cull the deer), said Invermere mayor Gerry Taft, adding that since the province issued the permit to cull the deer that if people has an issue with the concept of a deer cull they should be suing the province instead of picking on the district.

Mr. Taft added the district simply followed the rules outlined by the province. This should hopefully finally resolve this (deer cull issue) one way or the other, said Mr. Taft. Vancouver lawyer Reece Harding represented the district in court.

While the debate continues over the abundance of deer in Invermere, the urban ungulates wild cousins are actually in decline. Mule deer populations have not been doing that well over the past five to 10 years, and we are proposing to change some of the buck hunting seasons, said Cranbrook-based Ministry of Forests, Land and Natural Resources wildlife biologist Tara Szkorupa.

Its quite a different situation in town versus the backcountry, she added. They are doing very well in town, away from predators, and with lots of food.

This year is the second in a two-year regulation cycle and the ministry is now putting forward proposed hunting changes for 2014.

We don't actually harvest any female mule deer in our region, said Ms. Szkorupa. Its factors other than hunting that are affecting that population, and we dont have a great understanding of that. Its some combination of predation and habitat. Were just starting on a major research project to try and dig into that a little deeper.

Written by: By Steve Hubrecht and Greg Amos

Published: Oct. 25, 2013 12:00 p.m Columbia Valley Pioneer



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