Image copyright AAP Image caption The park was closed in 2012
A small Canadian city is making a controversial bid to kill a majority of its deer population.
While many in Montreal pride themselves on being accommodating to animals, the first-term mayor of the city, Valérie Plante, has made clear what she thinks of them.
She calls the animals “urban fauna” and estimates that eight out of every 10 deer in the Outremont municipality, which straddles the border between Paris and Montreal, are “nuisance” animals.
The plan to cull 2,000 deer seems certain to provoke protests from animal rights activists.
But the reason behind the cull remains unspoken. Under Montreal’s provincial urban planning legislation, smaller communities in the greater Montreal area are forbidden from promoting the killing of deer within their parks.
However, Outremont’s planning commission has voted 3-1 in favour of the proposal.
Rowing and sailing
It has an illustrious history of coexisting with wildlife, but that does not mean the Outremont city council is reluctant to use the legislation to make sure that all of Montreal’s wildlife has room to roam.
It regularly facilitates land-use initiatives for birds, providing micro-donations to bald eagles, rearing and releasing black-capped geese and supporting an attempt to rehabilitate golden eagles.
In the past 15 years, they have used urban planning as an opportunity to try to boost the city’s attractiveness to migrating birds.
They also sponsored a multimillion-dollar coastal coho salmon project, a crowdfunding campaign to help a rowing crew raise their boat from the ocean to a hill, as well as contributing funds for monitoring the animals at various stages of their migration route.
Image copyright AFP Image caption Residents had launched a campaign calling for a three-year trial period to reduce the population
Their aim is to make the suburbs more “productive”.
Mayor Plante’s support for culling deer has in part inspired a similar proposal by Solézioni d’Anziani, an eastern city close to the French-speaking part of Quebec. It has an elected council that supports the killing of its own deer population.
Speaking to Quebec’s La Presse newspaper, Sylvain Bujold, who sits on the city council and is a biologist, said it was clear the deer in the park were dispersing.
“Unless there is the objective of reducing them, there is no reason for this population to exist at all,” he said.
“Eating up a lot of valuable asphalt, their behaviour is bad, and if they invade such a large area we will need a massive solution.”
What is the Outremont deer population?
At the Outremont municipality council meeting where the cull was approved, an aerial trapper from Ecojustice advised councillors that 4,300 deer are in the park, about 1,500 of which are in the park itself.
The remainder, he said, are mobile, meaning they disperse to other green areas or other neighbourhoods in the city.
Crowds of angry protesters have blocked the entrance to the park in recent days, forcing the authorities to close the road. Some demonstrators have suggested that they will attempt to intimidate animal rights activists.
Image copyright AFP Image caption Protestors have blocked the entrance to the park in recent days
People who live near the park were concerned about the destruction of important forests in the area, Montreal’s La Presse newspaper reports.
But Mayor Plante was adamant that it would be possible to make up for the fall in local resources with more litter pick-ups and clearings of land.