Re: Council frustrated with lack of provincial aid on deer issue, (OBN July 24).
The Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society was very happy to receive $5,000 in financial support from Oak Bay council and is now looking forward to an opportunity to explore how best to work together on deer management.
The UWSS has several objectives. One main goal is to demonstrate a non-lethal alternative to lethal culls – immuno-contraception is listed as an option in the provincial document that guided the Regional Deer Management Strategy and as Alice Finall, Mayor of North Saanich and the chair of the CRD’s Planning, Transportation and Protection Services Committee, said last week, “deserves a much better chance.” Director Vic Derman agreed with the scientific evidence-based approach of the UWSS, saying “if we are going to intelligently attempt to manage deer, we absolutely have to start out with being able to survey, identify and enumerate the population and then track what happens to that population over time.” Tagging and tracking the deer in Oak Bay, along with vaccinating the does with the contraceptive SpayVac, is an important element of our program.
Another goal is safety. For instance, no one wants to hit a deer and see it suffer, or leave a fawn or two as orphans to starve – however we also don’t want to see vehicles travelling at an unsafe speed collide with a deer and cause bodily harm to the occupants or swerve at a high speed to miss a deer, and cause a more serious accident. To that end, we have successfully initiated a sign and advertising campaign to remind people to slow down in areas where deer are known to be, and we are planning community information/education workshops in conjunction with the BCSPCA for the fall.
Deer eating gardens continues to be an issue for some. We believe we can help through ongoing public education. As a farmer, CRD director John Ranns endorsed the UWSS saying “I think, from my experience in living with deer on a day-to-day basis, that [immuno-contraception] has the best chance of success of anything I’ve seen other than fencing.”
Quite rightly, there is pressure on the province to improve supports for urban deer management. Along with providing supports for contraception plans as an alternative to divisive lethal culls, the province needs to implement much more stringent guidelines for mitigation of human-deer conflict and for ensuring public education specific to individual communities is effective, sustained and given time to make a difference.
As the CRD recognized, deer are clearly a shared responsibility and there are certain steps that municipalities will continue to be responsible for such as community engagement, human-deer conflict reduction and public
education. While the pilot project that Oak Bay undertook was time consuming and costly, it’s important that deer management not now be brushed off as solely a provincial responsibility.
Along with gathering significant
information from the immuno-contraception program, there are important and effective conflict-reduction steps that together, Oak Bay and the UWSS can implement.