At Monday's (Feb. 26) meeting, Okotoks town council got a look at how the town's Deer and Wildlife Feeding and Attractants Bylaw is enforced.

Councillor Rachel Swendseid had inquired as to how many complaints municipal enforcement have received since the bylaw was introduced in 2021, and if any fines have been issued.

"We do have a problem in Okotoks, I see pictures of people [cupping] their hand, deer are coming to their hand because they've been so habituated with feeding here. It's completely unacceptable that the deer are doing that," said Swendseid

Council was presented with statistics from 2022-2024 showing how many complaints were made and how the issues were resolved.

Municipal enforcement saw 16 deer feeding complaints in 2022, with 12 in 2023 and two so far this year.

Of those 30 total cases, 20 were resolved through "education," with 7 classified as "no offence found," and three violators having gotten a written warning.

Notably, no fines have been issued thus far.

Municipal Enforcement Manager Vikram Kulkarni explained to council that bylaw officers respond to complaint calls and assess the situation from there, with an educational approach always taking priority.

"We've tried to understand what exactly is the issue. Are they feeding the deer, are they being deer aggressive, a number of factors from there. Depending on that is then the enforcement that takes place with an education-first approach... Many times, constituents here in the community are not aware of the bylaw and what they can and can't do, so many times, when an officer responds to that, it is all about education. What I'm happy to share is that we don't have the same complainants calling in, it's different people that we're talking to."

The written warnings that were issued were to violators who had already been spoken to, with some even having been visited by Parks staff before municipal enforcement was notified.

Councillor Swendseid asked Kulkarni if he thought a "zero tolerance" approach as opposed to the education-first approach would make a difference.

Kulkarni responded saying he doesn't feel a zero tolerance would be necessary given that the number of complaints has gone down over the years, with written warnings having been seemingly effective when needed.

The presentation was purely informational, though Swendseid feels the issue of people feeding deer could hinder other efforts to manage the urban deer population, and should be addressed.

"If we want to do larger management issues with the deer, we need to solve this issue first. We can remove all the deer we want, but if people are just going to feed them when they start reestablishing themselves, it doesn't make any sense. I really feel like this is something we need to deal with before we move on to larger management issues."

The video of the meeting as well as the report showing the bylaw enforcement numbers can be seen on the town's website.