Oak Bay hopes for a full $20,000 from the province’s Provincial Urban Deer Cost-Share Program. The 2016 Oak Bay budget includes $10,000 for deer management; another $10,000 would come from 2017.
The Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society plans a two-phase approach to deer population control in Oak Bay.
The application to the province for matching funding 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.
There is no indication yet whether funding would be available at that time. However, last year the program offering up to $100,000 toward deer management was under-subscribed and some applicants received additional funding prior to the provincial March 31 end of fiscal year.
With ungulates most active around dawn and dusk, UWSS would divide the district into three counting zones for a series of five or six January 2017 counts around sunrise and sunset.
Divided into teams of two, using one team per zone, teams would be instructed on how to determine the sex of the deer; which should be quite accurate given the antler growth at the proposed time of the year.
Drivers would drive between 10 and 15km/h so deer would not be missed due to speed. Predetermined routes would cover all the arterial and collector streets within each zone. Counting only deer seen in the forward 180-degree field of vision would prevent double-counting.
When possible, high-resolution photographs would be taken for the existing Oak Bay deer photo inventory.
Information sheets and GPS information would be complied and plotted on a map along with a report of final count and deer densities. Results would be included in the final report to Provincial Urban Deer Cost-Share Program.
Based on a rough estimate of 100 deer in the community, UWSS also plans to track 10 per cent of Oak Bay deer.
Experts suggest a buck will range over large areas while a doe lives its entire life within a square kilometre of its birthplace, however, there is no data to support that behaviour in black-tailed deer in an urban setting.
Up to 10 deer would be captured by a contractor or graduate student in pre-baited clover traps, or immobilized using a dart. Although clover traps or drop nets could be the primary means of capture, UWSS recommends the use of immobilization drugs administered via darting.
GPS tracking collars could be equipped with a radio-controlled remote release eliminating the need to recapture the animal to recover the collar. UWSS would like collars installed by January to collect data for at least a year. GPS tracking data collected from the program by grad students would be used to enhance knowledge of urban deer activity in the region, and would be included in a final report to the province.
The population model:
A population model for deer in Oak Bay would be used to understand, explain and predict the numbers of deer in the district, to establish a population objective and to provide insights on how to achieve that objective.
An independent contractor or graduate student would develop the model, outlining birth rates, death rates, immigration and emigration estimates.
While no immuno-contraceptives would be administered in Phase 1, it would be developed. Originally, UWSS intended to use SpayVac and had the product available. Since then, they say, the manufacturer declared remaining samples expired and shows no desire to pursue the product. Instead, UWSS proposes to contract a lab to produce a new immuno-contraceptive blending PZP – commercially available through an agreement with the US Humane Society and the Science and Conservation Center (the manufacturer) in Montana – with a liposome enhanced aqueous adjuvant to increase its long-term effectiveness.
They expect to have it ready for use in summer of 2017. The product would need to be imported on a Health Canada Emergency Drug Release. An alternative is to use ZonaStat-H, a proven immuno-contraceptive currently in use by Wild Horses of Alberta Society
Administering the vaccine by darting as discussed previously is an important aspect of this program. A full report would be submitted to the Provincial Urban Deer Cost-Share Program upon completion of the research.
What is PZP and how does it work?
• A non-cellular membrane known as the zona pellucida surrounds all mammalian eggs. The ZP consists of several glycoproteins (proteins with some carbohydrate attached), one of which, ZP3, is thought to be the sperm receptor (the molecule which permits attachment of the sperm to the egg during the process of fertilization). The PZP vaccine is derived from pig eggs. When this vaccine is injected into the target female animal, it stimulates her immune system to produce antibodies against the vaccine. These antibodies also attach to the sperm receptors on the ZP of her own eggs and distort their shape, blocking fertilization.
• PZP is a promising form of contraception in wildlife because:
•it has prevented pregnancy an average of 90 per cent of the time in treated animals
•it can be delivered remotely by small darts
•the contraceptive effects are reversible
•it is effective across many species
•there are no debilitating health-effects even after long-term use
•it has almost no effects on social behaviours
•the vaccine cannot pass through the food chain
•it is safe to give to pregnant animals
Source: Wildlife Fertility Control (pzpinfo.org)