Okotokians seem torn when it comes to the local deer population.
At their latest meeting, Okotoks Town Council received the "What We Heard" report from an urban deer survey held in February.
The results show some difference of opinion that seems fairly evenly split.
This year's urban deer survey saw 2591 responses, quite a step up from the 380 who responded in 2018.
The results of the survey include 46 per cent of respondents saying they've had damage to flowers, trees, or landscaping from deer, with 49 per cent saying they've used deterrent strategies like fencing and deer-resistant plants, but deer continue to enter their yards.
Perhaps the biggest example of the polarizing nature of the issue is the response to question 8 of the survey: "What is your overall impression of deer in Okotoks?"
Just over 40 per cent said they liked having the deer around and they want to share the space with them, and just over 40 per cent said there are too many and some kind of management action is required.
Another question included in the survey regarded the "gentle stressing by canine" strategy that was presented to council in October. 54 per cent of respondents said they'd be in favour of considering the program if short-term strategies had no effect, with 46 per cent voting against it.
The end of the report recaps the town's current steps concerning the urban deer population, which include increasing awareness of the Wildlife Feeding and Attractants Bylaw, promoting their Steer Deer Clear yard visit program, launching a fruit tree replacement rebate as part of the Water Conservation Rebate Program, and a council vote to amend the Land Use Bylaw to increase the maximum height of yard fencing.
Councillor Brent Robinson said the results showed a level of discontent with the deer that might warrant revisiting previous deterrent methods that council has previously voted against.
"The overall impression of 40 per cent of people in this town is that 'I think there are too many deer, and some form of management action is required.' I understand 40 per cent of people think the deer are just fine, but if there was half as many deer, those 40 per cent of people would feel no different about their town and the other 40 per cent of people would feel much better about the place they live in. If 40 per cent of people in this town were complaining about traffic every day or their grass dying every day... and 40 per cent of people in the town said, "This is terrible, I hate it,' we'd be thinking way harder about changing that type of thing."
Councillor Ken Heemeryck noted that the information in the report was similar to what he's seen in past years, and suggested the fencing pilot and promotion of deer-repellant plants would make a difference moving forward.
He also suggested the data might not be reflective of the whole town, particularly those with a passive attitude toward the deer.
"I would suggest that 2591 responses are probably statistically accurate most of the time, I'm not sure it is in this case. I would suggest that most people who haven't responded don't have a concern. I believe most people are living fine with the deer and I think most municipalities, if not all municipalities in Alberta, good municipalities with lots of tree cover that are in a river valley wildlife corridor, have deer. I don't want to be the community where essentially, we're shooting deer. It just doesn't feel too pleasant."
Council voted to accept the report as presented.