LONGUEUIL, Que. — A city on Montreal's south shore is planning a controlled hunt with crossbows this fall to kill most of the deer living in a local park, after their population jumped by almost 50 per cent over the last year.
The deer population in Michel-Chartrand Park must decrease and be controlled to prevent the situation from deteriorating, Longueuil Mayor Catherine Fournier told reporters Wednesday.
Last spring, the park was home to more than 100 deer — almost 10 times the number that experts say it can comfortably support. The deer population has increased 238 per cent over the past five years.
"The park capacity is a maximum of 10 to 15 deer," Fournier said, alongside city councillor Jonathan Tabarah.
Longueuil officials have been trying to cull the expanding white-tailed deer population for years but have faced strong backlash, including threats. An animal rights activist has taken the city to court over its plan to kill the deer, but Fournier said Longueuil cannot wait any longer.
"Seeing the urgency of the situation, we are moving forward with the deer herd reduction game plan, despite the legal processes underway," she said.
Fournier said the city requested a permit from Quebec's Wildlife Department — which has yet to be delivered — to carry out a controlled hunt this fall with the use of crossbows instead of firearms, as the park is located in a residential area.
The city decided last November to capture and euthanize some of the herd, but Fournier said Wednesday that plan had to be revised because it would have allowed officials to kill only about 30 animals. New information, she said, "showed we needed to act in a much broader way."
A wildlife rescue organization — Sauvetage Animal Rescue — had proposed to relocate the animals, but a veterinary ethics committee at Université de Montréal deemed that strategy unsafe.
Tabarah said the deer are contributing to road accidents, increasing the risks of Lyme disease in residents because the animals carry infected ticks, and damaging property. He said the animals lack food in the park and are travelling to neighbouring areas and risking being hit by cars.
"If we don't do something rapidly, it's sad, but we are going to lose the park," Tabarah said Wednesday, adding that the animals are threatening the area's biodiversity.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 20, 2022.
Pierre Saint-Arnaud, The Canadian Press