Rose enthusiasts in Pincher Creek are asking town council to install deer fencing around the historic Lebel Mansion’s rose garden, marking a tactical shift in gardeners’ roving battle with the town’s hooved menace.
Past deer controls, including chicken wire, flashing lights and organic sprays, “have been totally ineffectual,” Kay Weir, president of the Old Man Rose Society, said at the head of the society’s delegation to council April 11.
Roses are a favourite snack among the town’s sprawling mule deer population, estimated at nearly 100 strong last winter by Maria Didkowsky, a wildlife biologist with Alberta Environment and Protected Areas.
The society has cultivated the Lebel rose garden since 2007, when it entered into a rental agreement with town hall. In that time, Weir said, the society has accepted over 100 private donations, as well as donations from the town and neighbouring MD and from Shell Canada, which formerly operated the Shell Waterton Gas Plant.
That money has gone into beautifying the garden, long a popular spot for tea parties and a crowning feature of the town’s annual Communities in Bloom contest.
The deer have ravaged the garden to the point where it might not factor in this year’s contest.
“If we are to participate in Communities in Bloom, based on last year’s example, there will not be very many flowers on display unless something is done,” Weir said, adding that the society’s membership has dwindled, partly due to gardeners’ mounting frustrations.
Weir suggested putting up roughly 43 metres (140 feet) of fencing around the garden.
Mayor Don Anderberg said he empathized with the society’s plight.
“Obviously, the deer are a problem,” he said, qualifying that deer management falls under provincial jurisdiction.
“I’m not making any excuses: we all have deer issues at our own properties,” Anderberg continued.
The town’s nuisance bylaw (1574-19) prohibits anyone from feeding wildlife, specifically including deer. The bylaw also forbids the use or accumulation of wildlife attractants anywhere in town. Both offences are punishable by fines between $200 and $500.
Council has meanwhile directed administration to look into a potential land use bylaw amendment allowing for higher fencing to keep deer out of residents’ yards.
Weir said she hoped to see deer fencing at the rose garden as soon as possible.
Council is considering the society’s request, which may require an amendment to this year’s budget, Coun. Sahra Nodge said.