There may be more deer hunting opportunities on the islands by next year.
Officials in the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection are considering loosening up the hunting regulations, in the hope that a bigger deer kill will reduce their devastating effect on local plants.
Tom Smith, a wildlife officer in the ministry’s Smithers office, said suggested changed include extending the season for both bucks and does, increasing the total number of deer a hunter is allowed to kill in one year to 15 from 10. Right now, the season for antlered deer (bucks) runs from June 1 to Feb.28, and the season for antlerless deer (does) runs from Oct.4 to Feb. 28.
The Charlottes already have the most permissive deer hunting regime in the province. “They are an introduced species that are having a significant impact on the native vegetation,” Mr. Smith explained, adding that deer browse is also affecting animals like birds which depend on certain plants. “The native species are being impacted and reduced.
The goal of the new hunting regulations is not to kill all the deer n the islands, but to bring them to a more acceptable level,” he said. Although the deer are an introduced species, they have become a part of the local landscape and may islander fill their freezers with deer meat.
“We do not want to eliminate the deer on the Charlottes totally,” he said. “If they weren’t there, that would be a good thing. But they are there now.”
According to ministry statistics, in 2001, 230 licenced hunters killed an estimated 517 deer on Moresby Island, and 239 licenced hunters killed an estimated 443 deer on Graham Island. First Nations hunters also kill a significant number, but the ministry does not keep track of these numbers.
Mr. Smith said the proposed regulations might not affect many hunters, as the ministry’s statistics show that 75% of hunters kill less than four deer per year. Before 1987, there were virtually no deer hunting regulations on the Charlottes Mr. Smith said. “If you saw a deer you could shoot it, any time, anywhere, as long as it was done safely,” he said.
The current regulations are pretty much the same as those introduced after 1987, although in 1997 the ministry increased the possession limit to five deer from three. The number of deer killed that year increased, but the limit was reduced back to three the next year.
“We had a bit of pressure,” Mr. Smith said, explaining that off-island hunters found it well worth the ferry trip to come here for five deer, while it wasn’t worth it for three deer. “There was pressure on us to reduce it to give local Charlottes residents more of a chance.”
There was also an issue of spoilage, he said, as off-island hunters found weather delay on the ferry could mean the deer meat stayed unrefrigerated for an unacceptably long time. Although that may still be an issue with the proposed regulations, Mr. Smith said, the feeling of many people is that this is a small risk compared to the risk to local plants posed by the large deer population.
The proposed new regulations will be sent to Victoria in the next few months, after consultation with a hunter advisory group with members from northwestern BC, including one from the Charlotte’s. Mr. Smith is also hoping to get support from the Council of the Haida Nation for the changes. If Victoria approves the changes, they could be put into place for next year.
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