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EDITORIAL: Rule there for a reason

The possible solutions might sound dire, but a move by the Town of Truro to address the problem of deer in the urban area has got people’s attention.

That was especially so when the words “hunt” and “cull” got thrown into the discussion. The thought of such measures is bound to upset some people. But there’s no disputing something needs to be done when the animals are as commonly seen on lawns, in gardens, crossing streets or wherever as they are in that town.

Truro hosted a public information session this week to discuss the issue and hear what people had to say.

The commonplace sighting of deer in downtown areas does raise differences of opinion. Some find it quaint, a bit of a novelty. But the concerns are more than declaring them a nuisance to gardens and flowerbeds. It’s a matter of safety on streets among traffic flow and the fact that wild animals fare better in their natural environment.

That reflects the crux of the problem – in Truro and other towns. Some residents are known to feed the deer because they like seeing them around, or think they’re helping them. To that end the town introduced a bylaw in recent years, and has used it. A woman was fined in 2015, $233.95 for feeding deer in her backyard.

New Glasgow and other Pictou County towns also have some typical spots where deer are regulars. New Glasgow took the measure of passing a bylaw forbidding people from feeding them. It reflects growing recognition of a widespread problem.

In Truro, along with the suggestion of a possible cull, is the idea of using contraceptives – dart borne, fired from an air rifle – to help control the population. A cull is described as an extreme last resort, and one can imagine it would be tricky.

Those who argue against any such thinning measures often assert that human populations encroaching on natural habitat is as much to blame as anything. There’s truth to that, but it still doesn’t do downtown deer any favours. Truro, it’s been noted, has that feature of a park in its downtown that extends out into forested land – providing a conduit for the animals into the urban area. But similar natural features surround most small towns, making deer a common sight.

Truro hopes to have a strategy in place by fall.

In the meantime, town officials there and elsewhere – along with the Department of Natural Resources – say education is key. Feeding deer, or any wild animals, is a bad idea. It’s not ultimately helping them if the easy food simply attracts them into a precarious situation.

Persuading everyone to stop feeding them won’t be a fast track to turning things around. But it’s a first step in keeping the problem from getting worse.

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