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Concerns raised over parameters of Truro deer hunt

A deer crosses a trail in Victoria Park.
A deer crosses a trail in Victoria Park. - Lynn Curwin

TRURO, N.S.

Bow hunting for deer shouldn’t be permitted anywhere within Truro’s watershed area where workers or the public could be placed at risk, says a town employee opposed to the idea.

The employee, who works in the town’s Parks, Recreation and Culture Department asked not to be identified. He said the town’s proposed plan to permit bow hunting in the widespread watershed area should be reconsidered.

And that became all too apparent, the worker said, after he and a colleague recently encountered two bow hunters near the town’s water treatment plant.

“And they were just sauntering on down the road with their loaded cross bows – which you don’t do anywhere,” he said.

“The way I look at it is, this is our work place.”

Although yet to be implemented, the town is working on a plan with the Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters to permit bow hunting in the watershed area as a way to deal with the community’s growing deer population.

Hunters will not be allowed to hunt in residential areas and must adhere to governing regulations. Bow hunting season opened in September.

And while they will not be permitted to hunt on town property, per se, the man said the fact remains trails have been upgraded, signed and expanded beyond traditional boundaries of Victoria Park.

“But it doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a workplace,” he said. “When you have marked, signed trails, you can’t let hunting in around there.

“And if people think otherwise, then how about I go into their workplace with a loaded weapon and wander around in there. That’s my concern. I don’t have anything against hunting, I hunt. That’s not the place for it. At one time it was. But the dynamics of the park have changed and now that it has expanded, they’ve included bike trails and all of that and within it, that’s part of the park as well.

“Somebody needs to decide what they are going to do as far as safety in the workplace. They preach safety to us all the time,” he said, noting Occupational Health and Safety regulations.

Because of trail expansion in the area, Truro Mayor Bill Mills said there will likely be areas where permitted hunting will cross over into public access points. But he said those areas will be signed to indicate hunters may be present, while hunters – who must have town permission to do so – will be provided with maps identifying trails and access points.

And anyone using trails during hunting season, he added, would be wise to wear hunter orange.

“We are in the process of trying to do something about the deer,” Mills said. “It’s not like we’ve opened up the doors and it’s a free-for-all. That’s the last thing we want.”

As far as employee safety issues, Mills said parks workers should communicate those concerns directly to their superiors if that is how they feel.

“This is part of the problem. The fear factor is going to take over and blow this thing up …

“Staff have the right to call anybody, they can refuse to work, they can call me, they can call the CAO,” he said.

“It would make sense to me that staff would be the first ones to be communicated to, as to what the town’s plans are. I am going to look into it.”

Given the hikers, cyclists and other members of the public who also use the expanded trails, the town employee believes, if hunting is permitted, the town should pick specific time periods and close the area off while hunters are present.

“There’s lots of places to hunt. If they want to do a deer cull in the town then say so and do so,” he said. “It’s a safety aspect and that’s what it boils down to.”

Town Councillor Brian Kinsman said during a recent council meeting he’s skeptical that a hunt in the watershed would have an impact on the population of deer within town limits.

“In my view, the issue we’re having with deer is the result of deer that were born in Truro, feed here, breed here,” he said. “The deer I saw in my backyard, just a few blocks from here, this morning, I don’t think commute to the watershed lands … so if we take 20, 50 or 100 deer out of there every year I don’t think it’s going to touch the urban deer population."

He thinks concern over Lyme disease causes worry for some. However, only about two per cent of cases trace back to deer.

“We need to address those concerns, and get the facts out there,” said Kinsman, who also suggested cycling trails in the areas should be excluded from hunting.

Mills said there’s no intention to have a full-blown cull “in the sense that we are bringing in teams of all kinds of people to conduct a hunt.”

He noted bow hunters have been permitted under Department of Natural Resources regulations to hunt deer in the watershed area for many years.

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