MONTREAL -- The City of Longueuil has returned to its plan to cut the deer community at an urban park by euthanizing the excess population and donating the meat to local food banks.

The recommendation was made as part of a report by a committee in charge of analyzing the best way to sustain the overall ecosystem of Michel-Chartrand Park, in the borough of Le Vieux-Longueuil.

It was composed of local residents, environmental organizations, as well as university and governmental experts.

"The recommendations presented to us today are the result of a concerted citizen's process in which all options were carefully studied," said Longueuil Mayor Catherine Fournier.

"We can now truly say that all the stones have been turned on this issue."

The committee, set up to study the best way to balance the ecosystem and ensure long-term preservation at Michel-Chartrand Park, met nine times over the last six months.

According to city officials, they conducted work in the field and met with numerous experts, including veterinarians, to gather their opinions.

What they found was that the park constituted a fragile and at-risk ecosystem.

"The natural environments of Michel-Chartrand Park are so degraded that they can no longer regenerate," the city states.

Some of the issues are "trees devastated by the emerald ash borer, proliferation of invasive exotic species, overpopulation of [malnourished] deer and those consequences on the regeneration of the flora," it said.

In addition, visitors to the park often do not comply with regulations to protect the environment, which "threaten the sustainability of this natural jewel in the urban core of Longueuil."

In its report, the group outlines three priorities:

  • Collaborative governance of the park that prioritizes the conservation of natural environments;
  • Measures that ensure the regeneration of natural environments, including reducing the number of deer according to the ecological capacity of the park and stopping the spread of invasive, exotic species;
  • Raising public awareness of the ecological value of the park, the immediate threats against it and what residents can do to help.

In total, 30 recommendations were made to protect the park. City officials note more than $17 million will be invested over the next three years to support the initiative.

"It is important for us to make decisions based on consensus and science. We realize that it is urgent to reduce the deer population in the park in order to avoid further damage to the natural environment, which has already been weakened by the overpopulation of deer," said Fournier.

"Taking into account all scientific, ethical and environmental aspects, this is the only possible way forward at this point, as the situation has greatly worsened, especially in the last year."

The City of Longueuil is also calling on the provincial government and the Ministry of Forests, Fauna and Parks (MFFP) to collaborate in ongoing efforts to save the park.

FULL CIRCLE

Last year, the City of Longueuil announced its plan to cull the number of deer and donate the meat to a food bank as a way to battle overpopulation.

The suggestion was met by widespread outrage, with some officials, including then-mayor Sylvie Parent, receiving death threats.

As it stands, animal rights activists state there are about 70 deer currently wandering around Michel-Chartrand Park.

“We already have an issue of overpopulation with 15 deer,” said Eric Dussault, the director of Sauvetage Animal Rescue, at the time.

The group had suggested relocating the deer targeted for euthanasia to various zoos and nature parks in Quebec.

However, an ethics committee examined the proposal and found that it would have endangered the lives of the deer.

"We were really concerned about the qualifications of the people involved ... We had issues at every level in terms of technique, drugs being used, management in case of complications," explained ethics committee chairperson Jean-Pierre Vaillancourt.

The animal rights organization then came back suggesting sterilizing the deer and offering them food over their six-year life cycle.

The City of Longueuil chose instead to further study the file and release a report on the best way to protect as many species in the park as possible.