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Montreal to hire professional shooters to deal with east-end deer overpopulation


The City of Montreal plans to hire marksmen to deal with the overpopulation of white-tailed deer in the island's east end.

Starting in the fall, the City of Montreal will begin decreasing the size of deer herds in east-end parks. The city said in a news release Tuesday that there are currently 165 deer in parks with a capacity of 25, and the number is growing "at an accelerated rate."

The expert committee that looked into the deer population recommended the city commission "professional shooters" to reduce the herds at Pointe-aux Prairies and Bois-d'Anjou parks.

"Reducing the deer population is not a decision that the City of Montreal is taking lightly," said Villeray-Saint-Michel-Parc-Extension borough mayor Laurence Lavigne Lalonde, who is responsible for large parks. "It is necessary, based on the recommendations received, and will be carried out with the greatest respect for the animals, limiting their suffering as much as possible."

Lavigne Lalonde said the city is working with a group to study deer movements, "essential knowledge for assessing the feasibility of a sterilization strategy, in the light of evidence-based data."

Montreal official opposition leader Aref Salem said his Ensemble Montreal party will analyze the expert recommendations and criticized Mayor Valerie Plante's administration for taking so long to deal with the deer.

"We deplore the fact that the Plante administration has waited all this time before making a decision, even though it has had the expert panel's recommendations on the status of white-tailed deer in east-end Montreal since 2021," said Salem. "In the meantime, the deer have multiplied and the situation has deteriorated." 

The Montreal SPCA was disappointed to learn about the plan.

"We believe that the use of management methods involving the killing of animals simply because they are considered ' nuisances,' is no longer socially acceptable today," said SPCA director of animal advocacy and legal and government affairs Sophie Gaillard. "We do, however, applaud the City's willingness to implement fertility reduction methods following the cull as part of a responsible and sustainable longer-term management approach."

The city said it plans to plant on 3.7 hectares of park space, establish enclosures, install signage and regularly count animals in the parks to protect the biodiversity in its parks.

The five-year, $2 million project will allow researchers to evaluate fertility control measures "to restrict population growth" and reduce the need for interventions.

"Sterilization and contraception as a means of controlling wildlife populations have proven their effectiveness elsewhere in the world, and the SPCA firmly believes that they represent the future of wildlife management," said Gaillard. "The deer problem in the east end of Montreal presents an ideal opportunity to test these new methods and contribute to the development of scientific and technical knowledge in this field. The SPCA encourages the City of Montreal to position itself as a leader in this area."

Biologists and veterinarians, in addition to university professors, made up the expert committee which made the recommendations.

"The scale of the effort required leads us to recommend the use of professional shooters to conduct an effective, safe operation that complies with guidelines on the care and use of wild animals," said Laval University biology professor Jean-Pierre Tremblay. "The committee stresses the need for ongoing knowledge acquisition to foster the development of an integrated, sustainable intervention strategy."

The city says the increased deer population has resulted in increased road accidents, a degraded ecosystem, disruption of food sources and a decline in bird populations, among other negative effects.

In addition, deer have brought with them increased black-legged ticks, which are known to spread Lyme disease.

The news release adds that alternative solutions were evaluated, such as relocating the deer. The committee did not recommend relocating the deer due to "numberous risks" of injury or complications that lead to deer deaths, the news release says.

The plan in Montreal comes after a legal saga in suburban Longueuil, where in October, the Court of Appeal finally rejected animal activists' request to halt a deer cull at Michel-Chartrand Park. The court gave the City of Longueuil the green light to cull up to 100 white-tailed deer for population control.  

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