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Student project takes aim at wildlife crashes

This map shows the worst roads for total number of vehicle-versus-deer crashes in the Brandon area between Jan. 1, 2011, and Nov. 21, 2013, according to Manitoba Public Insurance data provided to Assiniboine Community College land and water management student Justin Petkau. According to the data, there was 806 collision claims in that time in the Brandon area, many of which were marked as unknown locations, likely due to out-of-town drivers not knowing their exact location.

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This map shows the worst roads for total number of vehicle-versus-deer crashes in the Brandon area between Jan. 1, 2011, and Nov. 21, 2013, according to Manitoba Public Insurance data provided to Assiniboine Community College land and water management student Justin Petkau. According to the data, there was 806 collision claims in that time in the Brandon area, many of which were marked as unknown locations, likely due to out-of-town drivers not knowing their exact location. (GRAEME BRUCE/BRANDON SUN)

One of Justin Petkau’s proposals was for the city to consider urban bow hunting as a way to deal with deer overpopulation issues after reviewing data on wildlife collisions in Brandon.

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One of Justin Petkau’s proposals was for the city to consider urban bow hunting as a way to deal with deer overpopulation issues after reviewing data on wildlife collisions in Brandon. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD /BRANDON SUN)

A Brandon college student set his sights on culling deer collisions in Brandon, of which there were more than 800 between 2011 and 2013, according to insurance data.

Justin Petkau, a second-year land and water management student at Assiniboine Community College, proposed changes to a city bylaw to allow urban hunting in Brandon as part of his final research project.

"Over the years, I’ve seen an increase in deer populations and they’re coming closer within our town limits," he said.

"I’ve known people that have hit deer, and I’ve almost hit a deer just going to the Corral Centre."

Petkau has pitched his idea to city staff and police — a plan to allow bow and arrow hunting within certain underdeveloped parts of the city where deer crashes are most common.

"Obviously the walkways near the Assiniboine River, for example, would be off limits," he said.

"With bow and arrow, you’re pushing a maximum distance of 40 yards with a complete clear line of sight. It’s the safest and most practical method of hunting urban deer."

According to data given to Petkau from Manitoba Public Insurance, from 2011-13, there were 806 collisions involving deer — a number that has slightly dropped in recent years with 290 in 2011, 280 in 2012 and 236 in 2013.

Richmond Avenue East had the most deer collisions between Jan. 1, 2011, and Nov. 21, 2013, with 68, followed by 18th Street North with 55 and Veterans Way with 53 according to claims with known locations.

Petkau, who was surprised at how high the numbers were, said the data was crossed-referenced with Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation and city bylaw officers.

As part of Petkau’s pitch to cull the deer population, the city would buy extra hunting tags from Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship and bow-and-arrow hunters would kill whatever their limit is but wouldn’t keep the meat from city-issued tags — it would be donated to food banks.

Confident in his findings, Petkau pitched the idea of urban hunting to city officials late last year.

However, Brandon Police Service Sgt. Dallas Lockhart said a rewrite of the bylaw to allow for hunting in the city is not likely to happen any time soon.

"As you may guess, we would likely be less than enthusiastic about supporting that," Lockhart said.

"Urban hunting is not really well-received in areas such as Brandon, and by that I mean we’re not as rural as some areas where urban hunting may be somewhat more accepted."

Petkau argues Thunder Bay, Ont., a city of more than 100,000, implemented a bylaw in 2012 to permit deer hunting by bow and arrow in certain city areas. The city also passed a law that prohibits feeding deer within city limits.

From Sept. 1 to Dec. 15, people with valid hunting licences are allowed to use various types of bows to hunt deer on private property in the city’s rural and semi-rural areas at least 75 metres from a home or road while guns are still forbidden.

Kenora, Ont., also made similar amendments to its bylaws.

Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship is also leery of the idea, but a department spokesperson said they are reviewing the proposal.

"We have not received concerns about deer specifically in Brandon," the spokesperson wrote in an email to the Sun. "There is a lot of information that would need to be understood and collected on the matter before a course of action can be recommended."

The email went on to say there may be "more appropriate means" to control deer-related issues such as crashes, and public input would be an important component before any management actions were considered.

"It came out to be the most cost-effective method of reducing their numbers and keeping those numbers down," Petkau said, ruling out a capture-and-relocation approach or developing more urban wildlife habitat.

Set to complete his studies soon, Petkau has been scooped up by an oil company in northern Alberta as an environmental manager.

» gbruce@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @grjbruce

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 5, 2014

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A Brandon college student set his sights on culling deer collisions in Brandon, of which there were more than 800 between 2011 and 2013, according to insurance data.

Justin Petkau, a second-year land and water management student at Assiniboine Community College, proposed changes to a city bylaw to allow urban hunting in Brandon as part of his final research project.

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A Brandon college student set his sights on culling deer collisions in Brandon, of which there were more than 800 between 2011 and 2013, according to insurance data.

Justin Petkau, a second-year land and water management student at Assiniboine Community College, proposed changes to a city bylaw to allow urban hunting in Brandon as part of his final research project.

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