As of press time, Gabriola Rescue of Wildlife Society (GROWLS) has not been able to locate and capture a juvenile deer who has been shot by an arrow, according to GROWLS member Shirley Highfill.
Meanwhile, although the Gabriola RCMP is helping with the investigation, Corporal Trevor MacKay said Wednesday that GROWLS members and conservation officers are taking the lead in dealing with the injured doe.
Noting that photos that are circulating around Gabriola of the deer with an arrow through her neck are upsetting, MacKay said “as tragic as it might be”, it is unclear whether a crime has actually been committed.
It is currently mule deer hunting season on Gabriola, MacKay explained, for youth under 18 who are hunting with a bow. He added that while it is illegal to hunt “within 100 metres of a church, school building, school yard, playground, regional district park, dwelling house, or farm or ranch building that is occupied by persons or domestic animals”, he has no way of knowing whether the deer was shot in one of those locations.
According to Gabriolan Luke vander Horst, the deer, who has been named “Pretty” by those along her feeding route in his Pat Burns neighbourhood, was shot on Aug. 26.
Highfill, who took the initial GROWLS pager call about the injured doe, said Wednesday that the deer is travelling with her herd. She said Pretty’s condition was first spotted when the herd “arrived for Sunday brunch” at one of their regular feeding spots along their regular route.
The sight was upsetting for the neighbours who discovered the arrow, Highfill said, adding that GROWLS has not dealt with this particular problem in the past. She said the GROWLS rescue team has tried to capture the young doe, but the herd is led by a fairly “rammy” male, and they haven’t been able to get near her.
GROWLS member Carol Briscoe said a search party tried to find the doe on Tuesday, but to no avail, so although conservation officers were ready to come “on pretty short notice” to attempt a rescue, there is no point of them showing up until they know where to find the doe.
Highfill emphasised that deer do not stand up well to stress, so although Pretty appears “as calm as can be”, Highfill didn’t know how well the doe might weather this injury. “It looks like the arrow is in a fleshy part of the doe’s chest”, Briscoe said, so the injury may not be life-threatening, although there are chances it could get caught in something.
“Pretty was born one year ago”, said Vander Horst, who is one of the people who posted a $500 reward with the RCMP. He said Pretty “spent most of her daylight hours visiting her human friends in the 900 Block of Pat Burns Avenue to be hand fed and petted, giving a great amount of pleasure to a number of residents in the area”.
MacKay said that while offering a reward to find out who shot the young doe was a caring act, a reward can’t be issued if the shooting was not actually illegal. He said once the deer is caught, he can ascertain whether a legal calibre of bow and arrow was used to shoot her.
Meanwhile, GROWLS members Darlene Mace and Iain Lawrence said that the shooting might be “an illustration of the dangers we cause by removing the wildness from our wild animals”. They wonder whether being fed by humans turned the deer “into a target” for whoever shot her.
“When we feed the wildlife we start diminishing them and they start having negative consequences”, Mace said, such as “spiking the population unnaturally. We are weakening the genetic pool. They get less exercise”.
“It makes people feel good to feed animals”, Mace said, “but it does nothing for the animals”. She said when “the human moves away or dies, all you’ve done is create a dependency”.
Wildlife can be attracted into one’s yard without creating dependencies, Mace said, by planting “indigenous grasses, things they like, things they find naturally”. She added that often people move to the island because they are attracted by the wildlife, but then dig up the natural flora to make way for domesticated plants, and then put up fences to prevent the deer from eating their plants.
Those fences are also a problem, Lawrence said. “High fences and enormous walls of wood force the deer out of the bush and onto the roads – with disastrous consequences”. “It’s fine to fence part of your garden, but leave a corridor for the wildlife,” said Mace. “We have to work WITH the deer, not against them. We are killing our wildlife with kindness”.
If you spot the injured deer, Briscoe said, please do not approach her, but do call the GROWLS pager number (250-714-7101) to report the sighting, time, and location.