Deer cull creates a community divided

Painting each side as villains will result in lingering damage

It is immediately clear to anyone listening to conversations in local coffee shops or glancing at the letters to the editor in the local paper that Oak Bay has become a community divided.

The decision by the District of Oak Bay to cull up to 25 deer within the municipality’s boundaries has resulted in divisions that threaten the community far more than a few damaged gardens and potential hazards on neighbourhood roads.

The deer cull has opened deep divisions in the community, sometimes within families and between neighbours and co-workers. And perhaps the most damaging aspect of the dispute has been the apparent need to demonize the opposition.

Cull opponents have been painted as bleeding hearts, unwilling or unable to see the problems the swelling deer population poses to the community. Meanwhile, those in favour of the cull (with Oak Bay’s mayor bearing the brunt of the attacks) are seen as some modern-day lynch mob whose only justification for the cull is to satisfy their own blood lust.

Even the provincial SPCA has waded into the dispute. The SPCA has issued a warning to the district that if it is found that a deer dies from bleeding out while in one of the traps the organization plans to launch a cruelty investigation. It is asking witnesses to document any signs of distress shown by animals inside the traps. While certainly good intentioned, it’s hard to envision the SPCA’s stance helping to resolve the dispute.

Those in support of the cull have become increasingly defensive, to the point where a growing cloud of secrecy seems to be enveloping the issue.

There are legitimate reasons for either position on the deer cull debate, but portraying the opposition as either misinformed or blood-thirsty killers is hardly conducive to reaching an amicable resolution.

Hopefully, the anger and resentment brought on by this controversy won’t linger on long after the traps have been packed away.