A deer is seen at the Michel-Chartrand park in Longueuil, Que., Friday, Nov. 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Montreal-area city running out of options to control population of white-tailed deer

Montreal-area city running out of options to control population of white-tailed deer

MONTREAL — An animal-rescue group is trying to save a population of white-tailed deer that has outgrown a Montreal-area park, but even the head of an veterinary ethics committee says doing anything other than euthanizing the animals is unrealistic.

Sauvetage Animal Rescue director Éric Dussault says every solution his organization has offered the City of Longueuil, Que., on Montreal’s south shore, has been turned down.

“It’s David against Goliath,” Dussault said in an interview Tuesday. “We are slowly heading toward a dead end.”

Longueuil had planned to cull half the white-tailed deer population living in Michel-Chartrand park — about 15 animals. But the city backtracked last November after the idea sparked outrage and led to the mayor being threatened.

Instead, Dussault’s group proposed to relocate the animals to a sanctuary but the plan fell through in February after a veterinary ethics committee with Université de Montréal deemed the strategy unsafe.

In the meantime, the deer population in the park kept growing.

There are now about 70 deer in the park — a number Dussault said is several times what the urban green space can support.

“They don’t want to relocate them,” Dussault said of city officials. “Great, let’s sterilize them then.”

But ethics committee chair Jean-Pierre Vaillancourt says that while he doesn’t want to encourage euthanizing the animals, other options seem unrealistic. Sterilization, Vaillancourt adds, would be a costly process about which Quebec lacks expertise.

“It wouldn’t fix the problem, but only slow it down,” he said.

Vaillancourt says there’s a lack of political will to deal with the issue before the November municipal elections. “The current situation is that we have a pretty catastrophic deer overpopulation caused by humans, because we have fed them for years,” he said. “It’s our fault.”

Dussault says his company is ready to pay to sterilize the deer so the animals don’t have to be killed. One option, he says, is a contraceptive vaccine. He suggests a product made by a Canadian company that can sterilize the deer for up to six years.

“We propose other solutions, but we are told that it’s too expensive, that we have not been mandated to sterilize the deer but to relocate them so our solution is not recognized,” Dussault said.

Representatives for Longueuil weren’t available for comment on Tuesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 27, 2021.

Virginie Ann, The Canadian Press

Montreal