If you see a wounded or dead deer in Short Hills Park, please notify us with a picture and GPS coordinates at firstname.lastname@example.org
Click here to download the Park’s “Harvest Protocol” for 2020
Click here to download the Park’s “Harvest Protocol” for 2021
A 2020 radio ad again asking the Premier to end hunting in community parks.
How You Can Help
Please contact Premier Ford and Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks, David Piccini and tell them provincial parks should be protected areas free from hunting.
Premier Doug Ford
Toronto, ON M7A 1A1
Minister David Piccini
Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks
5th Floor, 777 Bay St.
Toronto, ON M7A 2J3
Short Hills Provincial Park is situated in the Regional Municipality of Niagara. It is 735 hectares in size making it the smallest provincial park in Ontario. Its features include part of the Niagara Escarpment, representative northern Carolinian forests and the Fonthill Kame Moraine.
The park used to provide sanctuary for deer from hunters in areas surrounding the park. Sadly, in 2013, the Ontario government opened up the park to the first ever deer hunt. Deer mothers lost their young and dependent fawns were orphaned. Hunts have occurred yearly since 2013.
When is the hunt?
The hunt takes place in Short Hills Park over six days in October, November and December. The park is closed for what the Ministry calls “Deer Harvest”.
Each bow and arrow hunt begins one-half hour before sunrise and ends one-half hour after sunset. Each hunt day is followed by a half-day of “clean-up” activities during which time the park is also closed. Clean-up consists of finding and removing deer carcasses and entrails because deer are frequently wounded and left to die, as observed and documented by animal advocates entering the park at noon on clean-up days.
Cost of the hunt to date
Freedom of Information (FOI) documents show that the hunt has cost Ontario taxpayers approximately $425,000 since 2013. In 2019 the hunt cost $39,915.08. Costs include salaries, food and accommodation for Ministry staff present during the hunt; the use of 35 to 50 Ministry vehicles to patrol access points to the park and the park boundary on each day of the hunt; staff to drive the ATVs moving dead deer from the kill zone to the area in the park where the hunter trucks are left; the presence of a park biologist and two assistants to examine the dead deer; preparation for the hunt including marking different zones in the park; and clean up after each hunt.
In contrast, the operating budget for Short Hills Provincial Park is $25,800 for the entire year. The budget for a hunt either equals or substantially exceeds the yearly operating park budget.
Cost of each deer based on total cost of the hunt
A total of 423 deer have been killed since the hunt started which means each deer costs more than $1,000.
Ministry’s “hosting” of the hunt drives up costs to taxpayers
Ministry staff are present in the park for every day of a hunt. Staff operate three to four ATVs which transport the dead deer from the kill zones to the hunters’ trucks parked deep in the park. The Ministry also has a park biologist and two assistants to examine the dead deer and collect such data as age, sex, weight and health. The Deer Herd Reduction data sheet shows that the deer herd is healthy.
Orphaned and wounded deer
Orphaned fawns and wounded deer highlight the cruelty of the Short Hills hunt. Dependent nursing fawns are orphaned when their mothers are shot and killed. No one knows what happens to these young animals. Do they survive or do they die from predation or starvation?
The Ministry does not track or count wounded deer, as confirmed in an e-mail from Ministry staff. In the 2018 hunt, four wounded deer were found dead just at the end of the hunt. One fawn was found in the water, two bucks were located on the hill above the Boy Scout camp and an additional dead doe was reported by a hiker. More than a dozen deer wounded and left to die have been documented by animal advocates.
Information uncovered through FOI requests, show that members of the public have been in the park during each hunt, including cyclists, dog walkers, dirt bike riders, a woman cutting Christmas tree branches and a man releasing rabbits. The FOI material shows that the Ministry failed to follow the protocol which requires the hunt to stop until people are safely removed from the park.
For safety reasons, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act and Regulations requires that hunters in provincial parks must keep their bows and arrows encased until they reach their hunting site (Part XIV, s. 106(2)). This regulation has not been enforced by Ministry staff despite repeated complaints about the violation.
Concerns about the Park’s environment
During the hunt days, the hunters are allowed to drive their vehicles, up to 35 or 40 in a day, into a vehicle prohibited area of the park. The road into the park and the weigh-in station show substantial damage from truck tires.
In addition, the ATV’s used by Ministry staff cause considerable damage to fragile trails and off trail areas. Damage includes deep ruts, tree root exposure, damage to vegetation and riparian edges of river banks.
Short Hills Provincial Park is no longer an oasis of protection for wildlife in the Niagara Region.