The Minister of Forests

Oak Bay scores provincial funds to count deer

Municipality and Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society plan $40,000 project to tag, track up to 20 deer

Oak Bay plans to embark on its deer plan as soon as the collars arrive which could take six weeks, according to the project manager.

“The first thing we need to do is capture 20 deer – bucks and does – and fit them with the GPS recording equipment,” said Steve Huxter, of the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society.

They ordered the collars as soon as funding through the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations funding came through March 16. Oak Bay will get $20,000 urban deer cost-share program, funding projects that focus on deer culls and research into other population control methods.

“I’m very pleased with the province providing the funds to assist the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society to lead a unique approach to managing the deer population and also trying to understand the behaviour of deer in our urban environment,” said Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen. “We’re certainly hopeful any resulting management strategies will respond to the concerns we’ve heard from residents that there is an overpopulation of deer in our neighbourhoods.”

In December, Oak Bay and UWSS learned Invermere, Grand Forks, Elkford and Cranbrook were approved for funding, while the ministry worked with Oak Bay to refine its proposal.

“We were able to satisfy all the questions they had,” Huxter said. “All the tweaks are in the research phase to make sure all we do satisfies their requirements for good science-based evidence.”

With the matching $20,000 from the municipality, UWSS will implement the first phase of its deer management project – to radio collar up to 20 deer and place motion-activated cameras on trails frequented by deer. Information collected would give the municipality a better understanding of deer densities, range, population dynamics and dispersal rates and inform future management decisions.

“We’re three months down the road from where we first started so that does set things back a bit. We’ve got the equipment being ordered all our plans in place,” Huxter said.

Alongside the six-week wait for collars, UWSS and Oak Bay must apply to capture and tag the province’s deer.

Collaring deer is first – “We need to start gathering that information first and foremost,” Huxter said. Then the plan is to place motion-activated cameras on known deer trails.

“We thought we could send out teams of people and identify them, but looking over the area there are so many places the deer can hide. What we’re going to do is have 40 cameras set up,” Huxter said. Four cameras within each square kilometre, would snap images of deer _ identified by tags or other natural identifying markers.

“That will give us information about their movement. We have a statistician who will be taking all this data … it well tell us much more about what the population density looks like,” Huxter said. The project is based on significant support from Camosun College and the University of Victoria.

“We really want to get the community engaged in this process as well,” Huxter said. “In some areas we will be asking residents if we can place a camera on their property.”

The UWSS website, deerplanoakbay.ca, is under renovation to accept sighting information, something they already do on their Facebook page.

“We want to make sure that everybody in Oak Bay knows exactly what’s going on so they’re not caught off guard,” Huxter said. “We’re only going to be doing this for two to three months.”

Oak Bay offers an abundance of vegetation and no natural predators contributing to a perceived rise of the black-tailed deer population. Since 2012, deer mortalities within Oak Bay have averaged at 35 to 45 per year.

“What we’ve heard in our citizen survey and what i continually hear throughout the community the vast majority of our residents feel there are too many deer in a very small area. We’ve got to remember Oak Bay is only 10 square kilometres,” Jensen said.

The information would be used to develop an understanding of population size, density and movement patterns of black-tailed deer in Oak Bay and help the municipality develop an evidence-based, systematic, long-term urban deer management program as well as provide a science-based standard for effective urban deer population control.

A potential next phase of the UWSS plan previously outlined includes immuno-contraceptives, administered to female deer.

 

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