Birth control back on the table for deer

Oak Bay plans to pursue provincial funding to contract out work on the local deer population

After slashing funds tentatively allocated for deer management earlier this year, Oak Bay plans to pursue provincial funding to contract out work on the local ungulate population.

Coun. Tara Ney sprung the motion Monday that Oak Bay submit an application to the BC Ministry of Lands, Forest, and Natural Resource Operations for matching funds of up to $20,000 to contract with the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society to develop and implement a deer reduction plan using fertility control.

“This solution to implement a immune contraception program will undo the log jam at council, and the community can be assured that the deer population will be managed,” Ney said after the meeting. “The survey showed that the community was divided around a cull and that there is no social license to carry out a lethal intervention to reduce deer. Managing the deer population with fertility control allows us to get past the ‘urban versus nature’ divide.”

Her motion, and the timing, hinge on the Nov. 22 deadline for matching funds from the ministry – up to $20,000 for a community undertaking urban deer management projects. Ney found support from Coun. Eric Zhelka who anticipates managing deer in a “relatively conflict-free way.”

Coun. Michelle Kirby, who usually contends the deer are the province’s responsibility, also supported the motion.

“I would support this effort because I don’t see the province is making any effort to control their herd,” she said. “I see it as our only option, trying to make a plan the community can be less divided over.”

She expects, however, that despite the contracting out it will utilize some staff time.

“This will be more money,” she said. “I would be loathe to see our strategic plan be drowned by this.”

Coun. Hazel Braithwaite posted the lone vote against the motion.

“I don’t believe it’s something we’ve agreed to as a council yet … what control we use hasn’t been decided,” Braithwaite said, referring to the contraception plan. “This trumps the process we normally follow.”

Councillors Tom Croft and Kevin Murdoch were not at the meeting Monday night and council has, in the past, deferred items to be decided as a full contingent.

“I don’t think that would change the numbers,” said Jensen.

He suggested council have the UWSS proposal come before council Monday night.

UWSS was “very pleased” with the movement toward their plan for deer management, says society president Kristy Kilpatrick.

“Tara Ney really deserves credit for recognizing that there’s an issue in our community that we can resolve by working together and she has put a lot of effort into finding common ground,” Kilpatrick said. “The deadline for the provincial application for a cost-share project  is Nov. 22, and council needs it prior to that, so there is lots to do.”

Council declined a portion of that plan, a deer attitudes survey, earlier this year. They also voted to remove a tentative $30,000 allotted for deer management in 2016 during the spring budgeting process – leaving a $10,000 rollover amount.

“We’ve had a plan in place for over a year but it now has to be pulled together,” Kilpatrick said. “Once we have all the many pieces in place we’ll be sharing the details. Our goal is to be very open and ensure the community is kept informed of the various steps in this process – community engagement along with partnerships is an important component of urban deer management.”

The motion passed 4-1 with Braithwaite opposed.

“A fertility control program provides an opportunity for Oak Bay to be a leader in urban wildlife management,” Ney said. “People in Oak Bay have said they want effective control of the deer population, and they wish to live in unison with nature. We are funding a plan that will manage the deer population in an urban setting while respecting community values.”

Council meets Monday at 7 p.m. at municipal hall, 2187 Oak Bay Ave.