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Alberta deer culling methods bother citizens

CHAUVIN, Alberta - Ron Tizzard had to see it for himself - an 8-meter-deep pit filled with the headless bodies of scores of freshly slaughtered deer.

CHAUVIN, Alberta - Ron Tizzard had to see it for himself - an 8-meter-deep pit filled with the headless bodies of scores of freshly slaughtered deer.

It "was supposed to be just the bones and carcasses going in," he says of the pit near Chauvin, Alberta, about 160 miles southeast of Edmonton. "And there are some animals in there that are just the heads cut off, and the rest just thrown in."

A bison rancher, Tizzard is one of many people outraged at the nature and the scale of a cull being conducted in a bid to stop the spread of chronic wasting disease from Saskatchewan.

Members of the Alberta Fish and Game Association also have complained about the way the cull is being conducted, suggesting it targets more animals than necessary, upsets the natural balance, threatens tourism and spooks livestock.

They also complain that having Fish and Wildlife staff shoot the deer from helicopters makes it look like poaching.

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"I've hunted all my life, and that's why it disturbs me so bad," says Tizzard, 61. "This hunting area will never be the same; I know it won't."

Dave Ealey of Alberta Sustainable Resource Development says the province's efforts to curb the disease are science-based.

He defends the methods being used, saying the target is complete eradication of deer within a about a 6-mile radius of where the disease was discovered.

"This is not a hunt, let me make that clear. This is a cull," he says. "This is disease management."

However, he admits it's difficult to track the exact number of deer that have been culled and conceded that even as culling efforts intensify, the amount of healthy meat donated to Friendship Centers, food banks, communities and families has decreased.

That's a waste, says Doug Griffiths, Conservative member for Battle River-Wainwright, Alberta, who locals have credited with helping block an expansion of the cull that would have included an ecological reserve north of Metiskow.

"The challenge the department has is it's hard to pull all of those elements together," says Griffiths. "But I'd like to see them apply more effort and ensure all of the animal is used."

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