Cancelled deer cull at Point Pelee National Park puts ecosystem 'at risk'

·2 min read

The deer cull at Point Pelee National Park is being cut short due to provincial COVID-19 measures, but Parks Canada says the deer population is still quite high and puts species in the ecosystem at risk.

The cull started on Jan. 7 and was expected to run for two weeks, but as of Saturday, the park will resume its regular hours of 7 a.m. to sunset every day for visitors.

Director of operations for Caldwell First Nation Nikki van Oirschot says it's not an "ideal decision" and it wasn't made "lightly" but they agreed to do so for everyone's safety. Caldwell First Nation carry out the activity in partnership with Parks Canada.

In eight days, they were able to kill 31 deer and now estimate that the population is between 46 and 61, according to an emailed statement from Parks Canada spokesperson Sarah Quinlan Cutler.

Yet, because the park ideally supports between 24 and 32 deer, the population threatens some parts of the habitat.

"Therefore, the estimated park population size is higher than what the park is able to sustain to maintain healthy vegetation communities and the recovery of species at risk," Cutler said.

Parks Canada plans to monitor and "take action to manage the deer population moving forward, in order to protect Point Pelee National Park's ecosystems," she added. But no further details were provided on what these measures may be.

Despite this she said Parks Canada and Caldwell First Nation, who carry out the activity, are "pleased with the success of the first week of reduction operations."

It was a joint decision to end early as both groups felt it necessary given the rise in COVID-19 cases in the region.

Parks Canada said the deer reduction activity is part of other work, including planting native Carolinian species and removing invasive plants in an effort to improve the health of the park.

As for whether the groups made this decision to help people let off steam during the stat-at-home order, Cutler says they are open to serving the local community but "advises all visitors to act in accordance with the provincial regulations and restrictions."

Under the new order parks are allowed to stay open and people are allowed to step out of their homes for exercise.