A unique plan for handling Okotoks' urban deer population isn't likely to move forward.

The town is beginning to look at some of the medium-to-long-term strategies recommended by the Urban Deer Task Force.

At their Oct. 11 meeting, Okotoks town council was briefed on one of those strategies, a potential "Mule Deer Aversion Conditioning Program."

Consultants with Eagle Creek Wildlife Control presented council with a rundown of the program, which would seek to curb aggressive behaviour in local deer.

The program would zero in on the habituated behaviour of Okotoks' deer, which has made them fairly used to the sight of people.

Ron Hanson with Eagle Creek says the program would aim to change the way deer react to locals.

"The most practical approach would be to simply create an environment in which the deer's first response to the presence of a dog with a handler or a pedestrian, somebody walking their dog, would be to take a defensive posture. Currently what we find happens in these cases is that the deer do not see the dog and the person as a threat, so they will stand their ground, and if the dog gets a little too close, there have been occasions where the deer will charge the dog."

It would involve a handler and a dog who would move within a distance of deer, catch their attention, and slowly continue their approach.

The goal would be to pressure the deer into moving while being careful not to agitate the animals too much or provoke a charge response.

Eventually, according to Eagle Creek, the population would habitually avoid humans.

"It's like having a bully on the block," says Hanson. 

"The deer have come to see this place as theirs in a lot of ways because people haven't stood up to them and said, 'wait a minute, this is ours.' It's not that we can't live together, they just have to know their place a little bit, and we just have to put them in their place just by giving them that signal that human beings aren't to be pushed around by stressing them, by showing them that they won't be trodden upon."

This program would require months or even years of conditioning, says Hanson.

The program would cease during times when does are dropping fauns and leaving them in place, though after a while, it's expected that does would pass the conditioned behaviour onto their young.

Eagle Creek ran a similar program in Pincher Creek for six months in 2018.

That program, instead of looking to change the response from urban deer, aimed to move the population from the town

It used a similar strategy, only the intention was to herd the deer to the edge of town.

Eagle Creek reports some success with that program, though it was halted early due to complaints from residents that they didn't want the deer removed.

Initially, a motion was proposed to consider the program in next month's budget talks, though it was voted down.

Another motion that would see administration investigate a possible incentive program for locals who live near green spaces to utilize the deer-fencing program was also defeated.

Ultimately, council accepted the report as information, meaning that at this time, it's not set to come up for consideration by council again. 

A recording of the meeting can be seen here.