Are there deer in Mount Royal Park?

So a couple days ago I’m hanging out with my roommate and his buddy says to me, he says, “y’all wouldn’t believe this shit but I saw a deer up on the Mountain.”

Straight up hand to god he swears side to side he seen a living, breathing deer somewhere’s about the Mountain and I casually ask ‘wheres’?

He replies he doesn’t remember exactly, but it was ‘somewheres on the North Face up behind U-de-M’, and he was absolutely certain of what he saw. I protested this point vehemently, and the situation degenerated quickly into a Mexican stand-off of mutual incredulity. I, incredulous that there would be deer in a two-hundred hectare park. And he, incredulous that there wouldn’t. I find it highly suspicious given the extent of urbanization around the Mountain, the numerous roads, fences and trails that bisect the Mountain. Certainly the deer would get hit by cars, and how many could possibly survive on the Mountain without being seen? I’ve never heard of anyone spotting a live deer on the Mountain, and I’ve lived here my whole life.

Am I nuts?

I’ve tried to imagine what may have led my associate to believe there is at least one live deer on the Mountain. Perhaps the staff at the Biodome bring the deer out for a romp in the woods once in a while. Maybe the Biosphere has introduced the species covertly as part of some mis-guided ‘urban-reforestation plan’. There are endless possibilities really.

Did he see a horse? The SPVM has a stable up there and the police regularly patrol the Mountain on horseback in the summertime. I doubt he’d confuse one for the other though.

Maybe it was back during the strike at Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery back a few Summers ago. The cemeteries take up about two thirds of the central and eastern parts of what we know as Mount Royal. This is a considerable amount of space that was almost entirely fenced off and completely unmaintained for several months. Perhaps the Eco-Musée at the Morgan Arboretum let their deer out for a stretch.

Or perhaps there is some small pocket of natural Montréal wilderness, largely inaccessible to most park visitors and away from major roads in which a small group of deer have been able to sustain themselves for multiple generations. Perhaps it is an isolated gully, or perhaps they have simply adapted to urban living, and stick to a very small territory. There are plenty of deer living in the region, indeed, I’ve seen a whole family feeding in a swamp in July of 2004 just off of Chemin Ste-Marie near the Anse-a-Lorme Trail. But I really can’t imagine them living inside the most densely populated city in Canada.

Unless someone caught a deer somehow and decided to introduce them to the park all by themselves. Why someone would do this I don’t know.

So many unanswered questions!

I’ll do my best to get to the bottom of it.

2 thoughts on “Are there deer in Mount Royal Park?”

  1. Yeah I was highly suspicious of his claims. I think he saw a horse.

    That or some asshole kidnapped a deer and set it lose up there, and as I write that i wonder if it happens more frequently than I imagine.

    Still, if the land currently occupied by the cemeteries were ever given back to be used as park, it would be amazing if a small family could indeed be sustained, though I can’t imagine that would be a cheap endeavour.

  2. I strongly doubt it. There are deer on the island, I think – the far eastern and western ends of the island, and a couple of years ago a deer got into Park Ex:

    http://www.cyberpresse.ca/actualites/regional/montreal/200811/07/01-37226-un-cerf-dans-les-rues-de-montreal.php

    That one must have come into the city along the railway tracks.

    But Mount Royal is so detached from other greenery, it’s not near any tracks – think, if someone saw one deer that would mean there had to be a colony up there, because there’s nowhere a single animal could stray from that wouldn’t involve negotiating kilometers of city streets.

    I’ve spent a fair bit of time taking photos in the graveyards up there, too. If you move quietly you’ll see plenty of squirrels and the occasional chipmunk, and if you’re lucky you might see a groundhog or a fox. There are, of course, the raccoons that hang out at the lookout. But I’ve never seen a deer and your friend must be either having you on or imbibing in something that’s making him channel a native spirit of the mountain.

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