A New Brunswick town's longstanding problem with deer could help some families struggling to put food on the table this year.
The Government of New Brunswick has announced it is launching a program that will distribute meat harvested during the annual nuisance deer hunt in Saint Andrews among local food banks.
The program, according to the province, is expected to direct up to 450 kilograms of ground venison and stew meat to people in need.
Saint Andrews Mayor Brad Henderson said the program is something his town had been looking at for two years as part of solutions for dealing with the overpopulation of deer.
"The annual nuisance hunt in Saint Andrews has been happening for several years... and it's no different than what a normal deer hunt would be," Henderson said.
For years, deer have drawn the ire of Saint Andrews residents who blame them for destroying gardens and causing car crashes from frequently crossing the street.
The deer may also carry ticks infected with Borrelia bacteria, which cause Lyme disease.
Henderson said a University of New Brunswick study estimated there are about 22 deer per square kilometre in the town, about four times as many as in other communities of similar size.
Hunters participating in the program will receive two tags to harvest a deer for themselves and one for the food banks.
When a deer gets killed, the hunter will register it with the local conservation office, and later bring it to a butcher who's been selected to participate in the program. The butchered meat will then be taken to local food banks, Henderson said.
"So ][there's] a lot more to this program than obviously a normal deer harvest, but you know, you've got a group of people that are really interested in helping the food bank," Henderson said.
"And of course, trying to get the deer population in Saint Andrews under control because unfortunately, the nuisance hunt to date hasn't really stopped or declined the population of deer, but it has helped keep the overpopulation in check."
Henderson said food banks typically get donations for pasta, cereal and other non-perishable foods, meaning the deer meat will go a long way to providing families with a quality source of protein.
"To have a fresh meat … it's going to be something new for them," he said.
The Department of Natural Resources and Energy Development has put together a manual explaining the rules and guidelines hunters must follow for the program.
Only "very healthy animals" will be accepted and can only be harvested on days cooler than 15 C, said Natural Resources Minister Mike Holland in a news release.
"The handbook also addresses best practices for field dressing and transport," Holland said. "Once the hunter registers his tagged deer with us, all the meat from that animal can be traced all the way through, from the meat processor, to the food bank, to the consumer."