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Hungry deer cause major problems for Saint Andrews residents

cbc.ca logo cbc.ca 2019-06-10 Elizabeth Fraser
a close up of a cow looking at the camera: Residents of Saint Andrews are trying to find a way to eliminate the increasing number of deer in the southern New Brunswick town. © Marc-Antoine Mageau/Radio-Canada Residents of Saint Andrews are trying to find a way to eliminate the increasing number of deer in the southern New Brunswick town.

Oh deer — the town of Saint Andrews has a problem.

A harsh winter might have taken a toll on the province's deer population, but the southern New Brunswick town is still trying to tackle a growing number of deer within its borders.

"The reality is no matter where you go, you're either seeing a deer or the damage that they've done," said Brad Henderson, deputy mayor of Saint Andrews.

Deer have been a problem for Saint Andrews residents for more than 10 years, he said.

They destroy gardens, forcing residents to build fences, which have altered the streetscape of the town. More residents are also getting into collisions with deer, which is a rising concern, particularly with the coming tourist season.

"As a community we have adjusted," he said. "Most people go very slowly around town."

The deer may also carry ticks infected with Borrelia bacteria, which cause Lyme disease.

Henderson said there are 13 deer per square kilometre in Saint Andrews, four times the normal amount for a town of its size. The town is about 8.5 square kilometres.

"To put that into perspective, a normal community of our size and location would have about three to five per square kilometre," he said.

During the fall of 2017, Henderson said, the town partnered with the University of New Brunswick's department of forestry and environmental management on a project where students counted deer in different areas of the town.

UNB also provided recommendations to eliminate the deer problem, including a cull followed by an annual nuisance hunt.

For the cull, deer would be lured to a specific spot in town, where a marksman would be ready to kill the animals. The nuisance hunt would be an in-town bow hunt by recreational hunters.

Finding a solution 

According to the province, about 20 per cent of New Brunswick's deer herd died over the winter. That's about six per cent more than average.

In a door-to-door survey, students found residents weren't opposed to a cull and nuisance hunt.

"We have come to the conclusion that doing nothing is not happening," Henderson said.

Eighty-four per cent of residents surveyed found the deer population out of control.

Sixty-four per cent said they were concerned about their health and safety.

Why so many deer?

Henderson said the town is working alongside the province to determine whether a cull and hunt can help solve the problem.

Other possible solutions include birth control, sterilizing male deer and relocation, which is controversial because of the stress it puts on the animals.

While some have argued clearcutting is causing more deer to move into town, others say the construction of the Route 1 gateway highway near Saint Andrews in 2010 might also have something to do with it.

"You've got to wonder if 15 kilometres over a few years, if the deer didn't actually migrate [in] the other direction toward the town of Saint Andrews, which is a peninsula that has no predators," Henderson said. "There's no hunting per say, and of course no coyotes.

"It's a very safe area with a food source for them."

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