July 20th, 2024

After court cases and death threats, Montreal suburb’s deer cull to go ahead in 2024

By Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press on December 13, 2023.

The City of Longueuil says it has begun plans for a long-awaited cull of white-tailed deer in a local park and plan to go ahead in the fall of 2024. A white-tailed deer is shown in Michel-Chartrand park, in Longueuil, Que., Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

LONGUEUIL, Que. – A Montreal suburb announced Wednesday that its long-delayed cull of deer that have overrun a local park will finally go ahead in the fall of 2024.

The City of Longueuil plans to deploy certified crossbow hunters to kill almost all the deer in Michel-Chartrand Park, leaving about 15 of the more than 117 deer that were in the urban forest at last count.

Municipal officials have been trying to carry out the cull since 2020 but have faced strong backlash, including threats against the mayor. In 2017, there were just 32 deer in the park.

Jonathan Tabarah, an executive committee member who represents the district where the park is located, said the patience of many residents who live in the district has been pushed to the limit by delays that were out of the city’s control.

“I encourage you to ask the citizens of my district, as well as taking a 10-minute walk in the park and seeing the state of Michel-Chartrand park, which is not at all what it should be,” he told a news conference.

Animal rights organizations and activists fought the cull plan in court, but the challenge ended in October when Quebec’s Court of Appeal upheld a decision authorizing the crossbow hunt. The court found the cull falls within the city’s legal rights when it comes to environment, nuisances and health and safety.

“I’d say it’s a done deal,” Mayor Catherine Fournier said of the plan outlined Wednesday. The city will apply to get a new permit from the provincial government and put out tenders for an organization to carry out the cull.

The city has considered other options, including sterilization, birth control or even transporting the deer to a refuge, but ultimately experts concluded the only viable short-term solution was to kill the animals.

The city has repeatedly said the white-tailed deer are contributing to road accidents, increasing the risk of Lyme disease, travelling to nearby residential areas in search of food in addition to stripping vegetation in parks.

“The whole ecological equilibrium of the park is at stake … so the city feels that it has to to do what needs to be done in order to ensure that the park will remain with us,” said Louis-Pascal Cyr, a spokesman for the city.

The park will be closed to the public next fall to complete the task. The meat will be donated to local food banks and charities ahead of Christmas. While the final cost to cull the dear is unclear, Fournier said the legal fight has already cost the city $375,000.

City officials are hopeful the cull will be a one-time operation and once the population is reduced, they will able to employ different methods to control it without hunting.

Opposition to the plan remains. Several dozen people protested outside Longueuil’s city hall on Wednesday, calling for the decision to be rescinded. Natalie Moseley, a member of the group, argued that other kinds of control measures should have been employed long ago and other options remain on the table.

“We could still move them out of the park today, tomorrow, if they would decide otherwise,” Moseley said. “We have everything in place right now to make this a very good transition for these deer.”

The situation has also created tension towards elected officials in the suburb, where Fournier has been under police protection since she received a threat in September. Longueuil police Insp. Gino Iannone said a second threat made last week against Fournier and Tabarah is under investigation.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 13, 2023.

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