Oh deer: Nova Scotia town overrun with deer, officials considering options

A deer is pictured near train tracks in Truro, N.S. in June 2017. Mercedes Blair Photography/Facebook

If you drive through the central Nova Scotia town of Truro, chances are you will encounter a deer or two – or maybe three or even more.

The town’s deer population has multiplied noticeably in recent years and officials are considering options including contraceptives and a cull in a bid to control the growing urban herd.

The deer have become common sights on downtown streets and in people’s gardens, to the point where a public information session is to be held Tuesday night at the local fire hall as part of consultations aimed at producing a long-term strategy.

“One of the basic questions we are asking is … do you think deer are a problem in town?” Truro’s chief administrator, Mike Dolter, said in a telephone interview Monday.

READ MORE: Caught on camera: Deer runs full speed into Calgary building

“I think in some cases we are going to get a split on that. Some people see them as an issue and other people see them as just a nice part about being in town – that they are actually here in an urban setting.”

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Deer have even been spotted outside meetings held to discuss the deer problem, he said.

One scampered across the parking lot during a meeting to organize the information session, he said, while others were spotted outside a recent town council meeting discussing, again, deer.

“There were six deer on the lawn by the United Church right beside town hall,” he said.

Dolter said options under consideration include stronger enforcement of the current no-feeding bylaws, a contraception program to reduce the deer population over several years, or even a potential cull.

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Dolter said although other Canadian communities have used culls, Truro officials see it as an “extreme last resort measure.”

He said the idea of contraception might be “more palatable” to people and the town is in talks with the provincial Natural Resources Department.

Dolter said one idea advanced by a retired U.P.E.I. veterinary professor involves using dart-borne contraceptives that can be fired with an air rifle.

In the meantime, Dolter said one big problem is that some people are feeding the deer, and stronger public education is needed. The town fined a local woman $233.95 for feeding deer in her backyard in 2015.

“It’s not good for the deer and it’s not good for the community,” Dolter said of such feeding.

Truro is home to a large urban park that draws the deer because it touches on their rural habitat, he said.

“If they stayed in the park we’d all be very happy, but obviously they migrate out because they are looking for food … and they stay in town.”

Dolter said it’s hoped a strategy can be put in place by sometime this fall.

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