GROWLS seeking deer with arrow stuck in neck
A photo of a deer with what witnesses called a ‘training arrow’ stuck through its neck generated a lot of discussion on island this past week on social media sites and brought media attention to Gabriola from around the province.
The photo of the doe was taken by Arlene Mooney in her garden on Pat Burns Avenue on Sunday, Aug. 26. She then wandered into a nearby bush and disappeared.
The deer is believed by volunteers from the Gabriola Rescue of Wildlife Society (GROWLS) to be part of a herd which regularly travels the corridor between Dirksen Avenue and Pat Burns.
According to GROWLS, conservation officers from the province had been contacted, but when the deer had gone unseen for over a day, the trip to Gabriola was cancelled.
Arlene and her neighbours have posted a reward of $500 for information about the shooting.
Currently, it is open season for deer on Gabriola for bow hunting, although antler-less bow hunting is restricted to licensed youth only until Sept. 9.
Firearm hunting of deer bucks begins Sept. 10 for Gabriola Island.
Cpl. Trevor MacKay with the Gabriola RCMP said the shooting of the deer “could be 100 per cent legal. Sad, tragic and unfortunate, but the idea something illegal is happening, I can’t prove that.”
He said conservation officers are willing to come over with a tranquilizer gun and give the deer first aid (if it is found).
The arrow would then be given to the police to potentially locate its owner.
In a press release, Darlene Mace, a founder of GROWLS, said she hopes that something positive can come from the shooting of the deer. To her, the photograph of the arrow stuck in the animal’s neck is “not just a picture of cruelty. It’s an illustration of the dangers we cause by removing the wildness from our wild animals.”
“When we feed the wildlife we start diminishing them and they start having negative consequences,” said Mace.
According to GROWLS, there are times when it would be a cruelty not to feed deer, such as when Gabriola experiences an unusually harsh winter or periods of rehabilitation.
But constant feeding does more harm than good.
As part of her GROWLS training, Mace was shown X-rays of a wild raccoon that had been fed by hand. “Its bones were disintegrating,” she remembers. Without its natural diet, the raccoon was fed to death.
“It makes people feel good to feed animals, but it does nothing for the animals,” she said. “We are spiking the population unnaturally. We are weakening the genetic pool. They get less exercise.”
Inevitably, the feeding always stops. “The human moves away or dies,” said Mace. “And all you’ve done is create a dependency.”
But she points out that there are positive things we could be doing to entice wildlife into our backyards without creating dependencies.
“Plant indigenous grasses, things they like, things they find naturally,” she said.
Many people move to the island to live among the deer and other wildlife. “But then it’s ‘not in my backyard,’ “ said Mace. “They dig up the wild grasses and plant roses instead. Then the deer eat the roses. Then the people put up fences and feed the deer.”
The fences, according to GROWLS, are the other part of the problem.
High fences and walls of wood force the deer out of the bush and onto the roads with consequences.
“It’s fine to fence part of your garden, but leave a corridor for the wildlife,” said Mace.
Deer trails can be enhanced instead of fenced.
“We have to work with the deer, not against them,” said Mace. “We are killing our wildlife with kindness.”
Anyone who sees the deer, or any wildlife in trouble is asked to contact the GROWLS emergency pager at 250-714-7101.