Just over 20 sportsmen came out to the Kettle Wildlife Hall on Saturday afternoon to hear B.C. Wildlife Federation biologist Jesse Zeman provide facts about the decline of deer herds. His presentation provided facts to back up the anecdotal information given at earlier meetings in November and January.
Brian Hancock and Les Best organized the meeting.
Other biologists were also on hand, including Ministry of Environment regional wildlife manager Aaron Reid from Penticton.
“The main idea of what Zeman was trying to tell us is that we need funding,” Best told the Times after the meeting. “We have very few Conservation Officers, we have very few biologists. They are trying to cut the biologists back again. All of the money for our licenses and tags and everything was supposed to be going back to enhancement and habitat. That is not happening. Most of it is going into general revenue.”
Meetings in November and January called upon the government to cut back on the antlerless white tail deer-hunting season. But Best wasn’t optimistic. “They are just going to go ahead; and then they open up the muley season for another ten days.”
Habitat has inevitably changed over the years. Several large fires in the 1920’s and 1930’s created different types of habitat and as the forest has changed over time it went from forest cover types that favoured deer to those that do not.
To illustrate his point Zeman said that the mule deer harvest in 1966-67 totalled 2,925 but in 2011 it was only 735; and his moose harvest stats showed the same decline.
His message was that the regulatory approach taken by the province has failed.
He said wildlife management needs funding, science and political support.
All license fees and surcharges should be returned to the resource and management should be carried out at the landscape level.
His figures showed a net loss of license fees and surcharges of over $6 million dollars in 2011.
“The current model is not economically sustainable with funding going into general revenue,” Zeman said. While Fish and Wildlife BC had a budget of $19 million in 2011, Utah came in at $72.5 million in 2012 and Washington State at spent $120 million even back in 1996.
The message is that wildlife populations are in decline due to a lack of investment; no inventory; no research; loss, degradation and alienation of habitat; and unmanaged predator populations.
Zeman called for those concerned to advocate for increased funding, with all dollars returned and allocated to game management.
He said what is needed is plans that manage habitat and dependent species rather than plans that manage hunters. Those who attended were urged to write to their MLAs.
“I am really disappointed,” said Best. “I just can’t see what they are trying to do. When you go out in the bush there is nothing. There is just nothing. For the last two years they opened the white tail doe season and they are saying the count is way up. But where do the deer go?”