PARRSBORO – As efforts are mounted to update the provincial Wildlife Act to make it less harsh on domestic dogs, data from the department of natural resources (DNR) appears to back up claims that dogs are not the threat to deer that they once were.
Only 24 deer deaths resulting from chases or attacks by dogs have been reported in Nova Scotia since 1999, according to figures obtained by The Citizen-Record. The reports of sick, injured or distressed deer resulting from dog chases/attacks was 107, bringing the grand total of reports to 131 in the past 15 years.
“When you look at the statistics, over the past 12 years anyway, the reports we get of dogs chasing deer have gone down,” said Bob Petrie, director of wildlife for the DNR. “Whether the problem has gotten better, or it’s people reporting less, my suspicion is it is not as big of a problem as it used to be.”
In Cumberland County, where the deer population is considered healthy, there has been not a single report of dogs chasing or attacking deer since 2005, when there was one. Complaints in the county total 14 since 1999, with half of those coming that year.
Petrie attributed the decline to the efforts of dog owners and other responsible organizations.
“I think in the past few years, both between ourselves and the SPCA, there has been a lot of emphasis placed on people keeping control of pets, spaying and neutering animals,” he said. “I’m inclined to think we have more responsible dog owners these days than perhaps in years gone by.”
The most significant factor affecting the deer population is climate and winter severity, according to Petrie.
The Nova Scotia Wildlife Act allows anyone to destroy a dog if they witness it attacking a deer, moose or bear. Karen Yorke-Gilbert of Parrsboro, whose dog went missing last month, wants the law changed to encourage people to report such incidents to their local DNR office, rather than take the law into their own hands. Cumberland South MLA and Opposition Leader Jamie Baillie is backing up her efforts.
Nova Scotia’s Wildlife Act is under review, as called for by the province’s natural resources strategy launched in 2011.