A farm in Dundurn, Sask., has become home to hundreds of deer this year, where they pick bits of barley, canola and peas scattered in grain bins.
While the deer may look serene to those who spot them on a winter walk, farmer Ivor Johnson says a wild animal invasion is ruining his land.
“It’s an overpopulation of deer and nobody wants to seem like they’re doing anything,” Johnson complained.
Most Wildlife Withstand Saskatchewan’s Harsh Winters
Ontario couple’s luggage containing tracker donated to charity by Air Canada
“They’re just making a terrible mess in my yard with the feces and urine.”
The Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation reports that deer visiting farms are incredibly common in the province, though perhaps not in such high numbers as Johnson’s farm.
“Certainly I’ve seen it before, but I don’t know if we’ve seen it to this extent,” said Federation executive director Darrell Crabbe.
Johnson said the deer were destroying his winter food and planting shrubbery, as well as erecting fences to protect his horses in the pasture.
“Probably about 20 balls I’ve lost so far.”
These balls cost between $100 and $150 this year, plus trucking and freight. He estimates he lost about $3,000.
“Their survival needs kicked in much earlier than when Mother Nature usually would,” Crabbe said, referring to the extreme cold spell that occurred in November and December 2022.
“They’re definitely in a starvation situation,” Crabbe said, explaining that’s probably why they searched Johnson’s court in particular.
Johnson contacted Saskatchewan Crop Insurance, but they said they couldn’t do anything because the bales were left in the field instead of being stacked.
“I’m not as concerned about the cost of power,” Johnson said. “If this problem persists, the deer population will explode, and we will have even more problems next year.”
Longueuil to go ahead with controversial deer slaughter at Michel-Chartrand Park
Earth’s core could now be spinning in the opposite direction, study finds
Johnson said he brought wildlife conservation officers to his garden who did their best to help him, but he had no luck with the Department of the Environment.
“The people of Regina who make the rules have no idea what’s really going on here. When the conservation officers tell them what’s going on, they act like nothing has happened.
The wildlife federation disagrees, however, that high deer numbers this year will translate to a population increase next year.
“I’m just speculating that probably won’t be the case,” Crabbe said. “We’ve seen this scenario play out before, and usually many of them will succumb to the effects of winter and perish.”
Another area of concern is the population of coyotes accompanying a large herd of deer that remain in one location. Johnson said he once found a deer shot by coyotes inside the yard.
“I’m afraid to let my dogs out because the coyotes will lure a dog in and kill it.”
The decrease in the number of deer hunters in the region will make it increasingly difficult to regulate the population year after year.
“There has been a very noticeable decrease in the number of tags purchased, between 15 and 17.5%,” Crabbe explained after analyzing a survey of 2022 statistics by the wildlife federation.
This is the first time the number of legal over-the-counter white-tailed deer tags has decreased in the past 12 years.
Royal Saskatchewan Museum wildlife research logs over 50,000 hours in first year
Children died after drinking unpasteurized raw milk at Saddle Lake boarding school: advocacy group
Hunters are much more interested in bringing home bucks rather than does, which gives the deer population a greater chance of repopulation because very few bucks are needed to service a high population of does.
“They hunt horns,” he said. “The meat is secondary. It does nothing to control the deer population.
The Department of the Environment said that if the deer population reached extreme levels it would issue additional hunting permits or impose an “antlerless season”, during which hunters could only harvest deer.
Johnson said he has found three dead deer so far on his property of the herd.
He claimed some had damage clearly inflicted by coyotes around his farm, but others had no visible damage that could have determined the cause of death.
“We see this happening in many places where deer are dying, probably from disease or starvation,” Crabbe said.
Only a biologist would be able to perform an autopsy to determine the cause of death of the deer on Johnson’s property.
Johnson was contacted by a biologist’s assistant about a week ago and was told a biologist would be in touch with him about the situation. He still hasn’t heard from him.
The Department of the Environment said “fencing, hay stacking, scare cannons and chemical wildlife repellents/repellents” are effective ways to reduce deer population damage, but Johnson said said deer were already jumping or crossing its five-foot panels. on his property and the deer don’t seem particularly frightened by loud noises.
“I’ve shot coyotes among the deer and the deer just stand there and watch,” Johnson said. “They are not afraid. Scary Cannons will not work.