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Banning lethal trapping off the table as city recommends changes to wildlife strategy

A deer is seen in a field. (Source: Jim Fawns/Pexels) A deer is seen in a field. (Source: Jim Fawns/Pexels)

The city of Ottawa is bringing forward a number of changes to the city's decade-old Wildlife Strategy, but is not recommending any changes to controversial lethal trapping policies.

A report by city staff released this week is seeking changes to Ottawa's wildlife management policy that was passed in 2013. The changes include hiring a wildlife resource officer to support and lead the city's wildlife management policies and to adopt a municipal response strategy to reduce human-coyote encounters.

The city conducted a review of the Wildlife Strategy last year with public consultations and released the results in April. Residents expressed concerns over the city's lethal wildlife management practices, especially for beavers, coyotes and other large wild mammals.

A major theme in the consultations involved residents wanting to see a reduction or elimination of lethal trapping policies, even in situations when the presence or actions of an animal poses a risk to public health and safety.

"For some animals, such as white-tailed deer, moose, and bears, suitable release locations can be found within a reasonable distance," the report said.

"However, for other wildlife, especially beavers and coyotes, the Province does not support relocation beyond the immediate area. Consequently, lethal trapping will continue to be required in some circumstances."

The city says it is required to respect provincial laws and regulations that limit the distance that live-trapped or chemically immobilized animals can be relocated.

The wildlife strategy review was met with significant controversy over the years. Police shot and killed a black bear in Kanata last year, and several other animals including moose, beavers and elk have also been killed since 2010.

Ottawa Bylaw Services says a bear continues to visit backyards near Bell High School in Bells Corners. (Ottawa Bylaw Services/Twitter)

The city says it employs trappers licensed by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) to trap animals such as beavers, using "recommended tools and methods." Lethal trapping is recommended by the Ministry when mitigation and avoidance measures are "not practical."

The city says on its website that it has invested further in non-lethal strategies for beavers, including creating beaver fences, pond levellers and diversion dams.

Council directed staff to undergo a review of the wildlife strategy in October 2022, but was delayed several times. The city has put forward a list of ten recommendations to account for the pace and impacts of climate change.

"Wildlife-transmitted diseases have become more of a threat, especially Lyme Disease, which is now endemic in Ottawa. Ottawa’s human population has grown and diversified, with more people making use of Ottawa’s natural spaces. Provincial protections for natural habitats have been reduced, especially for wetlands, while environmental policies in Ottawa’s Official Plan have been strengthened," the report to coucillors says.

Among the recommendations is a partnership with the non-profit group Coyote Watch Canada, which has developed a "Municipal Canid Response Strategy" to educate and provide on-site rescue and assistance for human-coyote interactions.

It's also hoping the city will hire a wildlife resource specialist, a recommendation that was made when the Wildlife Strategy was passed in 2013, but never happened.

The report will be discussed at a joint meeting of the city's agriculture and rural affairs committee and the environment and climate change committee on June 17.

With files from CTV News Ottawa's Katelyn Wilson Top Stories

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