Hundreds of protesters gathered in Michel-Chartrand Park in Longueuil on Saturday to oppose the city’s decision to kill 17 deer due to overpopulation.
“I just love it here, they brought us so much happiness and my heart was broken when I found out what the mayor wanted to do,” said protester Koleighna Wilbur. “I think when there are other options available — why do we have to be so drastic?”
This week, Longueuil announced it would kill 17 deer because the overpopulation is damaging the park’s biodiversity.
Protesters, however, feel the measure is cruel and unnecessary.
“The Miller Zoo wants to take them, the animal rescue is willing to catch them and transport them,” said Wilbur. “They said it’s not as stressful and as hard as the City of Longueuil is making it out to be.”
A petition was launched against the deer cull this week and gathered close to 32,000 signatures as of Saturday.
“The city needs to find solutions, but in the meantime we need to decide what to do with these animals and we need to do it in a humane way,” said petition and protest co-organizer Geneviève Soza-Florent.
Miller Zoo and four other animal refuge centres have offered to keep the 17 deer with the help of animal rescue.
“We know that it’s possible to move these animals because we do this many times and we have a place for them,” said co-owner of Centre-refuge Nymous Jacques Lessard.
“We want to show the city that there’s a solution. We can take charge and change the situation,” added Eric Dussault, director general of Sauvetage Animal Rescue.
The City of Longueuil refused to comment on the situation.
However, Longueuil Coun. Benoit L’Ecuyer wrote on social media on Friday the city would not change its plans despite the zoo’s offer.
“Everything the city is talking about from diseases to risks of death during transport it doesn’t apply to these deers,” said Dussault.
Experts said relocating these animals is not as easy as it looks — many could die as a result.
“From a biological perspective, capturing and relocating animals in another area or another zoo is always risky,” said Martin-Hugues St-Laurent, animal ecology and biology professor at L’Université du Québec à Rimouski (UQAR). “We have a herbivore at a very high density, we have pressure on the vegetation and we will probably see a lot of different plant species disappearing.”
St-Laurent said a situation like this one is likely to happen again.
“No more wolves, a lot of agriculture, a lot of people feeding those deer — it brought the population at really high density and they’re putting a lot of pressure.”
Longueuil Municipal Council is set to make the final decision on Tuesday.