A group of Dysart property owners have started a group in an effort to push for a complete ban on deer feeding in town. /Photo by Tammy Nash

Haliburton property owners ask for complete ban of deer feeding

By Vivian Collings

Some Dysart residents are pushing for a total ban of deer feeding year-round as well as an extension of the applicable bylaw area.

Stop Deer Feeding Property Owners Coalition, Haliburton-By-The-Lake Property Owners Association, and Country Rose recently submitted documents for Dysart council’s consideration during the Sept. 26 meeting asking for changes to be made to the deer feeding bylaw.

“They both want the same thing,” said Karl Korpela, Chief Building Official for Dysart. “To amend the bylaw. Essentially, they’re looking for, all year, to restrict the deer feeding. They’re looking to have the fines doubled after each offense, and they’re looking to increase the area of our mapping to the original bylaw when it was created.”

Korpela said the map was reduced considerably from the hamlet area down to just Halbiem and the town’s centre.

“These groups have a new map showing expansion to the whole hamlet area again as well as including the public works garage and including all of Harmony Road,” he said.

Country Rose submitted a letter expressing the desire to extend the area to the public works garage on Highway 118 due to a high volume of deer/vehicle collisions.

“There’s nothing that restricts us from increasing those date timelines. I think those timelines were put in to kind of wean off the deer,” Korpela said.

He noted it would be in the hands of the Ministry of the Attorney General to approve or decline a fine increase.

“I’ve never seen a fine amount that doubles … But we can explore that if that’s something council wants to look at as well.”

Murray Fearrey, mayor of Dysart, said he was under the belief that the bylaw was to be in effect all year.

“Certainly it was the intention I believe, by council, I don’t know why it wouldn’t be, that it would be a year-round [restriction] from feeding in the area that was designated, so we need to make sure that that’s correct to start with, because for some reason that looked like you could feed them in the summer which makes no sense,” Fearrey said.

From the Stop Deer Feeding Property Owners Coalition, Gail Gillespe was in attendance to answer questions and express the group’s concerns with the current state of the bylaw.

“There’s been lots of discussion about weaning deer off,” Gillespie said. “You can’t just feed deer a little bit. We have a lot of feeders right now. If you try and wean them off, as soon as you offer any amount of food, the deer are still going to stay around.”

She said after talking to people on Cattail Road who stopped feeding completely, the deer moved elsewhere.

“What we want is a complete ban. There’s just so much damage to this town. The deer really aren’t healthy … There’s too much competition. They’re all hanging around for an easy meal. The younger and weaker ones, from what we can see, are not getting enough food,” Gillespie said.

Ward 1 Councillor Pat Casey brought up the topic of deer feeding yards and if they could be used to draw deer away from town.

“It could be a good compromise for everybody … To me if we can lure them away, at least it introduces them back into a wild environment instead of the town environment,” Casey said.

Gillespie explained deer feeding yards in the area in the past were not created by humans.

“They will yard themselves, that’s a natural behaviour. It’s not a policy the MNR endorses anymore at all. The kind of feed we give them is not good for them. It’s sub-par nutrition, corn and hay is terrible,” she said.

From the group’s research, it takes weeks for deer to be able to change the bacteria in their gut to digest natural food.

She added it would also increase the population of deer to a specific area.

“It would be nice to draw them out of town, for sure, but personally I think they will do that on their own. I don’t know how long it would take,” Gillespie said.

Fearrey noted the delegations that have taken place on both sides.

He said some are very passionate about feeding deer, claiming it helps them survive.

“Of course there are people selling [the feed] that do very well too. I don’t know where to take this. The first thing we need to do is get the bylaw fixed for now, and then if we’re going to look at any expansion for this year, we need to address that as a separate issue,” he said.

“A lot of people think they’re doing the right thing. We have to try and find a middle ground here somewhere. We will have further discussion on it for sure.”

The current fine is $150 for each day a new offense occurs.