Divided council agrees to manage deer

Wildlife management group plan spurs philosophy decision

Oak Bay council has agreed to manage deer

Whatever a plan may look like, Oak Bay will tackle deer in its boundaries.

In a lengthy conversation surrounding a grant request for the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society’s proposed Deer Plan Oak Bay, Coun. Kevin Murdoch nailed down the answer to a question he presented in January.

Sitting as committee of the whole, with Mayor Nils Jensen and Coun. Eric Zhelka participating via conference call, council agreed to pursue deer management “in partnership with the province.”

The second portion of the motion, which is a recommendation to council and would require adoption, refers to the responsibility for deer, which falls under the purview of the province.

It’s the main reason Coun. Michelle Kirby opposed the motion. “We’re at capacity,” she said, reiterating her stance the province should tend to its deer.  Zhelka also opposed the deer philosophy following nearly three hours of discussion.

“We’re turning our back on science,” Zhelka said.

In a bid for funding, UWSS board member Ralph Archibald outlined the society’s proposed Deer Plan Oak Bay during the March 21 meeting.

The five-point multi-year plan includes: effective public education, population model, survey of attitudes, deer abundance estimation and immune-contraception. The 2016 budget would require $38,000 funding from Oak Bay and $20,000 potentially available through the Ministry of Forests lands and Natural Resource Operations. Though the application deadline has long passed, municipal staff indicated the province seemed positive at the concept of an Oak Bay proposal.

The cost to the district for the entire five-part proposal for 2016 would be about $38,250.

Assuming $20,000 annual funding from the province, UWSS would need $27,500 a year from 2017 to 2020 from Oak Bay.

“We believe we’d see a reduction in human/deer conflict,” Archibald said. “We believe this would be positive action. there would be very little draw on staff time.”

Murdoch posed the question: “How do we determine the right number of deer?”

“The right number of deer will be defined by the citizens,” said Archibald.

“We don’t know the answer to the question because we haven’t asked it (of the community). There may not be a need for us to do anything. That’s a possibility,” he added. “We’re not in a position to say at this time … that there is categorically a need to reduce the number of deer that are here.”

That sentiment troubled Jensen, who contends the ecological damage alone signifies a need to reduce the number of deer in the community.

Bryan Gates, president of UWSS, suggested Oak Bay could be at “biological carrying capacity” – the maximum population the environment can sustain indefinitely.

“We have no evidence this population is growing, we have no evidence it’s declining. I believe we’re at biological carrying capacity,” he said. “We would like to work with you for the scientific information.”

Coun. Tara Ney, who felt the proposal was “well thought out, and it makes good common sense,” moved that Oak Bay contract UWSS for $17,250 – municipality’s share for survey, public education, population model and deer inventory for 2016.

Jensen asked, and Archibald confirmed, if information and survey suggested a cull is warranted and wanted, the society would not support that.

“We want to know all the options are possible,” Jensen said, adding that includes relocation and cull as well as immune-contraception. He also voiced concern over perceived bias should the society, a proponent of immuno-contraception, be contracted to conduct the survey.

The contracting motion failed and wasn’t followed up by any other suggestions regarding UWSS funding. However, council, sitting as committee, agreed unanimously to have staff bring back a “high-level report” costing out an attitudes survey during Estimates where they discuss budget.

“This does not mean we’re not partnering with UWSS at all,” Murdoch said in response to Zhelka’s concerns.

Estimates meetings are scheduled for April 6 and 13 at 5:30 p.m. at municipal hall 2167 Oak Bay Ave. The next council meeting is Tuesday, March 29 at 7 p.m.

 

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