With the application away, the cost of managing deer continues to be a key concern for Oak Bay.
While the majority of council showed confidence in the Phase 1 information, they unanimously backed Coun. Kevin Murdoch’s bid for more detailed information on Phase 2 and future costs as the application was laid out during a special council meeting Monday night.
Oak Bay and Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society applied for a $20,000 matching grant from the province’s Provincial Urban Deer Cost-Share Program. Oak Bay would fund the other half of the $40,000 total from the 2016 and 2017 budgets.
UWSS plans a two-phase approach to deer population control in Oak Bay.
The application to the province would cover the first phase, including population modelling, GPS tracking for 10 deer, a deer count and enhancement of a new immuno-contraceptive. UWSS intends to apply for the operational stage of immuno-contraception of Phase 2 in the spring.
Murdoch asked that the UWSS provide a more detailed outline of Phase 1, Phase 2 and potential future costs by February.
“It’s difficult for us to put a cost on Phase 2 because there are so many unknowns,” said project manager Steve Huxter.
Content to apply for the provincial grant, Murdoch noted that doesn’t commit council. While this option of deer population control is less controversial it could be “essentially in perpetuity,” he said. “We need to have as much information as possible.”
Huxter agreed that deer counts would be required on a “regular basis” as part of deer management.
Applying for the grant makes sense, Murdoch said, but hoped for more information in the meantime.
“Right now I’m agreeing to a $40,000 deer count, which I have a hard time with,” Murdoch said. “I cannot support spending the money without knowing where this is going.”
UWSS used the number 100 as its estimated population for basing its 10 per cent GPS collaring proposal to track deer. It’s an estimate based on what might be there and the amount of fawns, Huxter said.
Among its first tasks in the proposed project, UWSS would count resident Columbian black-tailed deer – to help determine a relative population density – using volunteers, UVic and Camosun College students and independent contractors. The most recent deer inventory showed a high of 55 deer, based on a three-week count in fall 2015. This inventory was conducted by paid counters from UVic, Camosun, UWSS and the CRD.
When asked by Coun. Hazel Braithwate how it differed from last fall’s count, Huxter said the proposed inventory would be done with a “wider scope.”
“We have some students at Camosun (College) working on some more exacting methodology,” he said.
Different surveys show different results, said Coun. Tom Croft.
“In some ways we are offering you an open cheque book,” he added, noting an application earlier this year included numbers for immuno-contraception that aren’t outlined in the current proposal.
“We’ve determined we can drop the price considerably,” said Steve McKerrell, UWSS business advisor. The number could drop from $1,000 an animal to $200 or less, particularly if tagging becomes unnecessary. Tagging deer was considered required to denote the deer as not safe for consumption. Manufacturers of PZP, the current option, say it cannot pass through the food chain and could be administered by dart.
UWSS anticipates key cost changes, such as the anticipated $30 a dose for the PzP vaccine plus $5 to $15 expected for the lab work and materials to create longer-lasting effects.
If there was no need to capture, but only dart a doe, that would cut the costs significantly, said McKerrell. With the created longer-lasting dose, it only needs one application as opposed to the usual two. Dye from the dart would remain on a doe until moult.
Darts are preferred over the plan to use the modified clover trap, which would be costly and add stress on the animals.
Council opted to forward the application to the province. Braithwaite maintained her opposed vote from the week before.
“This is something the province should do … it’s a burden on the municipality and the taxpayers,” she said, adding it sends a message that “downloading is OK” to the province. “With a heavy heart I can’t support this on principle.”