With increasing reports of damage to yards and gardens as well as instances of deer aggression in recent years, an Urban Deer Task Force (UDTF) was assembled in 2019. During its 18 month term, issues were reviewed and recommendations for policy and best practices to create a balance between urban deer and residents were developed. The Town is currently implementing recommendations and will move forward with developing an Urban Deer Strategy and Action Plan that addresses short, medium and long-term strategies for urban deer management in Okotoks.
The Town has completed several of the short-term recommendations brought forward from the UDTF in their final report from May 2021. Future mid and long-term tactics, and associated costs of implementation, will be developed this year and included in the Strategy and Action Plan.
The Town recently hosted a gardening with urban deer course where attendees learned how to cultivate a beautiful yard and garden while decreasing deer attraction; the video is available on the urban deer website. Launching this spring is a new Town pilot program where residents can book an appointment with Parks staff to have their properties assessed to receive recommendations for making yards less desirable for deer. This includes advice on plant species, fencing strategies and general yard design. To book, contact the Horticulture Hotline at 403-995-6333 or contact us online.
The Deer and Wildlife Feed and Attractants bylaw was implemented in July 2021 to regulate the intentional and unintentional feeding of deer and other wildlife on private property. Parks staff will be leaving informational door hangers where deer feeding is evident to educate residents. Persistent non-compliance will be referred to Municipal Enforcement; residents can contact them at 403-938-8913 to report illegal feeding of deer.
The fencing pilot program, launched in April 2021, provides residents with the option of protecting their gardens by extending their fences to deter deer from getting into their yards. The program has been extended to April 12, 2023. Project recommendations will be brought to Council next year based on two years of data and input from future public participation.
The Town continues to work closely with Fish and Wildlife to collaborate on implementation of task force recommendations. Local agricultural landowners interested in permitting hunting opportunities on their property are asked to contact local fish and game associations: Okotoks and District Fish and Game Association at firstname.lastname@example.org or the High River Fish and Game Club at email@example.com.
The Town updates, expands and communicates information on how to increase awareness and reduce conflict with urban deer; this is ongoing throughout the year. To support public education, new educational materials are currently being developed and will be available at Town facilities.
To review the UDTF final report, get details on the fencing pilot program or learn more about urban deer in Okotoks, visit www.okotoks.ca/urban-deer.