With the West Kootenay hunting season largely in the bag there wasn’t much in the bag for hunters who trekked out into the backcountry, says the president of the Trail Wildlife Association.
Terry Hanik said a sparse population of deer—both white tail and mule—contributed to a lean year for those looking to put venison into the freezer this winter.
He pointed to a Dec. 2 meeting of the West Kootenay Outdoorsmen—that includes clubs from Castlegar, Nelson, Nakups, West Arm, Trail, Creston and Grand Forks—where the tale of the one that never appeared was a common theme as hunters region-wide noted the deer count was down.
The low count is concerning hunters across the region, said Hanik, as they wonder how to re-establish the natural balance.
“You talk to different hunters and they aren’t happy. The odd hunter is getting their game,” he said.
“We need a management plan to see what we can do with the deer, and why their numbers are down.”
One of the main concerns for hunters is there are more predators than ever, said Hanik. Hunters are seeing more wolves, coyotes, cougars and even black bears than anything from the deer, moose or elk families, he added.
The predator count is really high and that is one of the reasons they are not seeing the deer right now, he noted.
One remedy is to get rid of some of the predators but that is not going to be easy. Hanik said the local wildlife associations are lobbying the province for some controls on predators, but there hasn’t been a plan implemented yet.
The B.C. government released a draft plan in November for managing the grey wolf population, including the continuation of wolf hunting and even culling animals in some areas like the Kootenays.
“We have no other way if we want to save our deer, but also moose and elk,” said Hanik. “We are in bad shape all over. There has to be a remedy (soon) or else we are in dire straits.”
The basis of the plan indicates the province’s wolf numbers are stable, increasing by about 400 over the last 20 years to 8,500. But the plan also noted that in some parts of the southern Interior wolves are killing livestock and endangered mountain caribou.
As the warden of the Fort Shepherd area south of Trail, Hanik said the numbers of deer are also down significantly in those wintering grounds, with fewer than 100 counted from March to October.
“At one time you used to be able to see 600 to 700 deer down in the area. Now you are lucky if you can count 75 to 100 down there,” Hanik said.
Those numbers almost contradicted an early season snafu by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations as they initially doubled the bag limit for Region 4 (Kootenay) mule deer to two in their season synopsis.
“It was an administrative error that wasn’t caught before the guide was printed,” said Logan Wenham, senior public affairs officer with the ministry.