Oak Bay secures permit for deer cull

Clover traps to be set on private property as district begins pilot project to cull 25 urban deer

This Ministry of Forests

This Ministry of Forests

With a permit in hand, Oak Bay is prepared to embark on an urban deer cull.

Staff confirmed the district received a permit Tuesday from Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to proceed with a cull of deer through the CRD’s Regional Deer Management Strategy pilot project.

While the district won’t release any more information other than the permit is in hand, it applied to cull using a modified clover trap and bolt gun method where the animals are captured in a large netted box using bait.

“They’re not restrained in any way, shape or form, most of them lay down and continue eating,” said Dr. Helen Schwantje, the provincial veterinarian who is in part responsible for training those who use the traps.

The modified clover trap is collapsed on the animal and the contractor uses a bolt gun similar to those used in commercial slaughter.

“There are processes in place to ensure they are handled humanely, killed in a humane manner and their products prepared in a safe manner so that people are safe,” Schwantje said. “The trapping we have done in the past has been done during the dark hours so that animals are disturbed the smallest amount. The locations are chosen so they are secluded, the purpose of that is that the deer walks into the trap and they’re not bothered in any way.”

While she’s not opposed to filming the process, as some groups have asked permission to do during the proposed Oak Bay cull, it would be a difficult task. Even with the ‘urban’ quality of our deer, and their habituation to people, there’s a personal space bubble similar to what humans feel.

“Just as people have personal spaces so does an animal … Anything out of the ordinary, sudden noises, someone in that space will make that deer leave,” Schwantje said. “When a contractor arrives to euthanize the deer it’s a very quick process, in fact it’s been done in under 30 seconds. So there isn’t much to film and observe anyway.

“I personally wouldn’t have any problem with it being filmed, it’s just how to set it up without stressing the animals more.”

The traps in Oak Bay are also slated to be utilized on private property.

With the cull process underway, it likely ends other options presented by the community. Though Schwantje said there aren’t many humane and efficient ways for population reduction.

“Fertility control is really attractive to people, but it does not reduce the population immediately, and may not ever,” Schwantje said, adding that in fertility plans “they recommend going in and culling animals to start with.”

She also pointed out that SpayVac, suggested by some for use here, is not manufactured, but could be if someone came up with the money.

“It’s not that we discourage it … It’s a big commitment, it’s a long-term commitment and it’s an expensive commitment.”

The Oak Bay cull is a pilot project through the CRD Regional Deer Management Strategy, suggesting the CRD will look at the results, that may be shared with the province.

“Permits are issued with conditions depending on the type of permit, depending on the content of it,” Schwantje said. “We have required in the past, other permits, to include a summary report of what went right, what went wrong.”

The permits also require the selected contractor be appropriately trained.

“Part of the process that we’ve engaged in with deer management with municipalities is that a group of us provide training for contractors on different areas of expertise,” said Schwatje. “The principles around my training are to ensure the animals are handled humanely and ethically.”

That extends to maintaining the health of animals for human consumption.

“We are obviously aware of the interest in this issue. We want to make sure this is done right both for the animals and the people,” Schwantje said.

Council saw a power point by Schwantje, released Jan. 26 and now online at oakbay.ca, during its Monday night meeting.

“We had the most speakers we’ve ever had during the public participation period, I think there were seven,” said Mayor Nils Jensen. Six spoke on the deer issue.