Okanagan residents often spot deer grazing around their communities, but some fences are posing a serious threat to the animals.
“Any fence that has rigid vertical spikes, whether they are pointed or not, they will injure a deer,” said Conservation Officer Tanner Beck.
“If they managed to get themselves off, they are horrific injuries. They are abdominal injuries with giant steel spikes and they are not survivable.”
It’s an ongoing problem. Beck, whose area runs all the way from Kelowna to Salmon Arm, estimates conservation officers in the region are called about the issue a couple of times a month, depending on the season.
Michelle Gregoire, who lives in Vernon’s Middleton Mountain area, says a fawn died in her neighbourhood this week.
“We have twin fawns in the neighbourhood. They were born in May of this year. She has managed to rear them through this whole year, this incredibly hot summer, the drought, the smoke, the ashes, the forest fires, and one of them had been jumping a fence…and it was impaled and died,” Gregoire said.
That incident has prompted Gregoire to speak out and call for bylaw changes to prohibit the new construction of spikey fences.
“Was actually quite furious that we didn’t protect them a little better, so as we continue to encroach on their habitat…we are sort of obligated to provide safe passage for them to continually walk through our neighbourhoods,” Gregoire said.
“Here, this fawn was impaled on an ornament, something that’s aesthetic and really serves no other purpose.”
Last year, both Coldstream and Kelowna changed their bylaws to protect wildlife by prohibiting certain fences, but the rules aren’t retroactive.
Beck said it is a step in the right direction but likely won’t decrease the number of incidents if the existing fences stay in place.
However, the conservation officer said fences can be modified to prevent injury by removing the spikes or attaching a bar or piece of wood on the top so there aren’t protruding spikes.
“We would love to have any fences that are grandfathered in to be altered or replaced,” Gregoire said.
For its part, the City of Vernon says any changes to the city’s fence bylaw would be up to city council and council hasn’t recently discussed the issue.