Deer meeting yields more decisions to make

Oak Bay closer to determining its strategy, says mayor

What has at least 200 legs and 33 open mouths? The turnout for a discussion on deer in Oak Bay.

More than 100 people, 33 of whom spoke, attended Oak Bay’s special committee of the whole meeting June 12 regarding the Capital Regional District’s Regional Deer Management Strategy.

The meeting was in response to the CRD’s request, last spring, that council provide a response to 10 suggestions made around possible implementation of the strategy. Those requests were brought to a heated discussion at the meeting, which provided an opportunity for further public input.

“There are, of course, many different views on the issue, but everyone is supportive of this [consultation] process,” Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen said. “I do think we are in a position now to make some decisions.”

Following the input, council is expected to make its decision tonight (June 24) on a number of the requests.

Strategies the CRD has looked at include pursuing fencing subsidies, improving public education around deer and the use of repellent, devising aggressive-deer protocols, changing public hunting regulations, enhancing the First Nations harvest, pursuing a catch-and-euthanize approach, refining road signage and speed limits, tracking deer-related complaints and formalizing participation in a Regional Deer Management Strategy oversight committee.

One speaker, Susan Vickery of EARS Sanctuary in Coombs, advocated for and shared her efforts in testing out an immuno-contraceptive on her own herd of 40 rescued deer. Vickery offered sanctuary for some of the University of Victoria rabbits during its campus-wide cull in 2011.

In three weeks, Vickery was able to raise $80,000 in support funds for the rabbits and offered her services to now help find sponsors for the non-lethal contraceptive shots.

“There are a handful of people who would like to see all the deer gone and a handful of people who would like to see them all stay,” she said. “But most of us are looking for that middle ground where we can recognize everyone’s needs – our gardeners, farmers, children and the deer – and find the tools to co-exist.”

Jensen says part of the problem is that the deer have no natural predators in the area, save cars. While the CRD has no official numbers on how many deer currently live in the region, the district has seen an “explosion” of deer complaints in the last decade, and public works crews in Oak Bay have tracked the numbers of carcasses they’ve had to collect through accidents. Three dead deer were taken to Hartland Landfill in 2007, none were found in 2008, 2012 saw 23 removed and crews have removed 11 bodies in 2013 so far.

“Mostly what we’ve heard is a general need for action,” Jensen said. “And what people are saying is that deer are not meant to be urban animals.”