A city on Montreal's South Shore can cull a maximum of 100 white-tailed deer that have overrun Michel-Chartrand park, a Quebec Superior Court judge ruled Thursday.
Plaintiffs Florence Meney and the Sauvetage Animal Rescue group attempted to legally thwart a provincial wildlife management permit and overturn Longueuil's resolution to organize a crossbow hunt in the partially wooded park.
Judge Bernard Jolin dismissed the appeal, saying the plaintiffs failed to prove the permit and resolution are unreasonable.
The city has no formal obligation to consult the public or independent experts before adopting the controlled crossbow hunting method as a deer herd control measure, the judge ruled.
Animal rights activists have been fighting the City of Longueuil tooth and nail, delaying the deer cull in Michel-Chartrand park by years with petitions, protests and legal appeals.
"This judgment is timely as the state of Michel-Chartrand park continues to deteriorate rapidly due to the overpopulation of deer," said Coun. Jonathan Tabarah in a news release issued by the city shortly after the decision.
He is the municipal councillor for the sector, and vice-chair of the executive committee. He said, along with the ecological havoc wreaked by the herd, there are road safety issues surrounding the park.
For years, neighbours have also complained of deer destroying their landscaping.
Mayor Catherine Fournier said the city will resume the effort to reduce the herd and "restore the ecological balance." This is something her administration has been working on since taking office in the fall of 2021, but the saga dates back further still.
In 2020, a suspect was arrested for alleged threats against former mayor Sylvie Parent and other members of the council over the deer cull, which would have produced fresh venison for a local food-relief organization. A year later, police investigated a threat against Fournier.
Thursday's ruling may feel like a bit of déjà vu to those following the story closely as this isn't the first time a Quebec Superior Court judge has made a decision on the matter.
The court ruled in October 2022 that the park was seriously overcrowded with deer. The size of the herd had tripled since 2017, reaching roughly 100 in number by that time, in a space that is about two square kilometres.
That amounts to enough green space to accommodate a maximum of 15 deer, court documents said.
Lawyer vows to fight ruling
Recent records indicate the deer population is up around 118 animals in the park.
After Thursday's ruling, lawyer Anne-France Goldwater told Radio-Canada she finds the judgment "really disappointing," and said she intends to appeal the decision.
"Maybe this case will go to the Supreme Court one day," she said.
Quebec's Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks has always advocated for controlled hunting as a means of management in urban and semi-urban areas, but hunting isn't usually allowed in Michel-Chartrand park which, surrounded by roads and homes, is busy with people all year round.
Last year, the city's plan was to temporarily close the park to the public so the hunt could be carried out in the fall.
Longueuil is no stranger to allowing controlled hunting on its territory every fall. For example, every year a handful of hunters are chosen by Longueuil to harvest a certain number of deer in the neighbouring nature preserve, Boisé Du Tremblay, which is less than a kilometre away from Michel-Chartrand park.
A total of 55,318 deer were harvested during Quebec's 2022 deer season.