Our newly elected council has an important decision to make. There is good reason to think the authority to proceed with a deer cull granted by the old council in June 2013 has expired and councillors will need to either renew it or move to more effective methods to address deer-human conflicts in the municipality.
A cull at this time makes no sense from a public policy point of view. Research studies on urban deer management say a cull will have no effect – deer from other areas of the CRD will simply move into the vacant space.
Oak Bay and the CRD have no idea about the size of the deer population in Oak Bay – whether it’s increasing or deer are simply more visible due to habitat loss.
The prerequisite steps of public education and conflict reduction measures haven’t been properly taken or given time to take effect. Pamphlets distributed in one issue of this newspaper don’t constitute a public education program, and where is the required speed reduction around high collision areas such as the Uplands Golf Course?
Original complaints from gardeners about deer eating their plants have been morphed into a “public safety” issue due to a single incident with a dog that cornered a deer at night in a back yard (the same place dogs can tangle with raccoons – but no one is suggesting they be culled).
The cost to CRD taxpayers for the strategy is $250,000, with $100,000 of that about to be spent on the Oak Bay-requested extension and deer cull. It’s a significant sum being unwisely spent.
Our municipality has an opportunity to become a recognized leader in progressive, innovative and effective techniques of urban deer management. Let’s not fall into the trap of killing 25 deer pointlessly and at considerable expense “just to see what happens” or as a way of satisfying those who have become irritated at the presence of deer in our community. It’s not the kind of Oak Bay I’ve known and loved for the past 22 years.