To the untrained eye, the custom-made "clover traps" that arrived in Cranbrook earlier this month could easily be mistaken for oversized hockey nets.
But instead of stopping pucks, they're meant to capture marauding urban deer that have become a nuisance and a safety hazard in the Kootenay town in recent years.
Measuring about two metres long, 1.5 metres high and a metre deep, the collapsible, mesh-covered cages are the key to a ground-breaking deer cull program that received final approval from the provincial government last week.
City of Cranbrook spokesman Chris Zettel said the devices will be baited with fruit, domestic animal feed and other treats that attract urban-dwelling deer.
"When the deer start feeding, they set off a little trap string that drops the door behind them, often in the middle of the night," Mr. Zettel said. "Then when the contractors show up in the morning, they pull the pins and the top collapses down on the deer."
The first B.C. municipality to receive a provincial permit to capture and kill deer inside its city limits, Cranbrook modelled its deer-cull program after a similar initiative in Helena, Mont., where close to 500 animals have been removed from a 28-square-kilometre area of the state capital over the last three years.
Once trapped, animals are killed with a bolt gun, "the same type of device that's used to kill livestock in a slaughterhouse," Mr. Zettel said.
The carcasses will be taken to a local butcher shop that specializes in game meat and "processed essentially into hamburger," he said.
The meat will be offered to a local program for homeless first nations people, and leftovers will go to the local food bank for distribution, he said.
Cranbrook's deer control efforts were prompted by a series of high-profile incidents in 2010, including a disturbing video of a deer stomping on a local dog that went viral on YouTube, and an attack on a local newspaper carrier.
Kimberley and Invermere have also applied for deer cull permits due to concerns that the region's robust population of white-tailed deer poses an increasing threat to human safety. Last June, a Kimberly woman was injured by an aggressive doe while trying to stop the animal from attacking her dog in her yard.
Over the summer, Cranbrook and the provincial Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, the agency responsible for deer control, agreed to share the cost of a deer management pilot project.
The ministry anted up $15,000 for equipment, including 10 deer traps, two bolt guns and a plastic sled for carting away the carcasses. The municipality has budgeted $13,000 to cover the cost of deer-control contractors and processing the meat.
Mr. Zettel said Cranbrook has permission to remove 25 deer from "several problem herds in town where we've had the most problems. A lot of them are fourth- or fifth-generation animals that have become accustomed to the lack of predators and the abundant food sources in the city."
Earlier this month, officials from Cranbrook travelled to Montana to meet with a retired police officer who runs Helena's deer control program, said Troy McGee, Helena's police chief.
"They ordered some traps and when they came down to pick them up, he helped put them together and showed them how everything works," Chief McGee said, adding that the meat from Helena's deer-cull program "is in high demand."
Mr. Zettel said Cranbrook expects to have a deer control contractor in place by the end of the month and, following a brief training period, begin culling deer in early December.
Special to The Globe and Mail