Deer are again being hunted – killed and sometimes left wounded – in Ontario’s smallest provincial park, Short Hills. Again we stand in opposition to this cull. And that’s what this is. A cull. Ontario Parks wants to reduce the number of deer in Short Hills to 40 – 50 animals as stated publicly for the first time by the park biologist.
Wildlife management agencies like Ontario Parks and Parks Canada claim that only humans can keep the natural world in balance. The natural world with its millennia of evolution wherein animal populations have adapted to their available habitats cannot be trusted, they seem to believe. Only they, the ‘managers’, complete with their biases that see wild animals as either resources to be exploited or as impediments to be removed, know what’s best. To achieve the artificial concept of ‘balance’ they will engage in the constant killing of wild animals. The yearly killing of white-tailed deer in Short Hills is just that kind of ministry-cull, taking place in a provincial park where wild animals and plants should be protected. And that is the basis for our opposition to this hunt.
For decades this small park provided refuge for wild animals from hunting in surrounding areas. Ontario sport hunters kill thousands of deer each year. It’s reported that in 2019 the Ministry sold 186,384 licenses (tags) to hunters. Sadly, there is no shortage of opportunities to kill deer. So why open up hunting in a provincial park, a small park also used by hikers and those just wanting to spend peaceful time in a natural area? Because the Ministry believes there are too many deer. They wrongly believe that deer populations do not exist in balance with available food sources. They wrongly believe that only they can determine the appropriate number of deer. How do we know that they are wrong? Because when there are too many deer competing for too little food, the population shows signs of stress including weight loss and starvation. The deer killed in the hunt who were examined by park biologists over the past 9 years were considered healthy and in good body condition.
Ontario Parks staff knows that Animal Alliance and the dedicated people opposing the hunt will document its failures to protect the park ecosystem and the animals and plants who depend on it. Parks should be places free from violence, places of peace and refuge for wildlife as well as people, places where plants and animals can escape human exploitation.
Ontario Parks’ mandate is to protect significant natural and cultural resources in a system of parks and protected areas that is sustainable, and that provides opportunities for inspiration, enjoyment and education: now and for future generations.
In reality, Ontario Parks staff manages according to pre-existing ideas of what a park should look like and how many animals should be allowed to live there. The Ministry target in Short Hills to a total of just 40 to 50 deer, means that hundreds of animals are to be killed to reach that goal. Hence the cull.
So once again the controversy continues between those who want to participate in the kill and those who want the park and its inhabitants protected. No one but those of us who stand in opposition to the cull will speak for the animals. No one else will expose the cruelty of hunting. No one else will document those deer who were wounded and left to die. No one else will expose the damage done by the trucks that are allowed to drive into the park and by the ATVs used to pick up dead deer.
We stand for the idea that there should be places of refuge, lands that are safe for animals and humans to share, where non-violence and peace prevail. We cannot stop all hunting but we can fight for the protection of provincial parks and the inhabitants that call the parks their home.