The Township of Esquimalt will begin giving some of its deer birth control this fall.
The decision comes after years of the township trying to find an agreeable way to manage its deer population. In the mid-2010s, when residents began complaining about the garden-munching animals in earnest, the only option would have been to cull them.
But, in recent years, a contraceptive option has emerged.
Oak Bay has been testing immunocontraceptives on its female deer since 2020 and is set to give them a booster shot of the vaccine this year. Originally, the province told Esquimalt to wait for Oak Bay’s results before taking any action, but after the township completed a three-year survey showing it does in fact have high numbers of deer, it convinced B.C. to let it run a study alongside Oak Bay’s.
The research is being done by the University of Victoria Applied Conservation Macro Ecology Lab.
This summer, a capture team consisting of a wildlife veterinarian and field technicians will tag 20 female control deer using darts. From September to October, up to 100 female deer will be captured and marked to be treated with an immunocontraception vaccination. In fall 2023, those deer will receive a booster vaccine.
Part of the study, Mayor Barb Desjardins said, is to figure out how many deer need to be given contraceptives to manage, but not eliminate, the urban population and how often they need to receive booster vaccines.
“Deer, this is their territory. We all have to work together and figure out what the right balance is,” she said.
During the township’s three-year population survey, it found an average of 130 to 140 deer in the area each year, not including on Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt property.
The goal, Desjardins said, is to lower the population to a number where they aren’t significantly damaging residents’ property or gardens.
“We don’t want to extinguish the population, but we also have a need for people to have food security,” she said.
She encouraged people to follow along with the study at esquimalt.ca by clicking on the government and bylaws tab, then animal control and deer.
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