Letter: Council’s deer decision is disappointing

Council's dismissal of UVSS proposal not acceptable

At Oak Bay’s Committee of the Whole meeting on March 21, the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society expanded on its proposed five-point program for deer management in the municipality. Council rejected the program.

We interpret this decision as a rejection of science and logic, and the rejection of an informed group of working and retired professionals, including wildlife biologists, who are guided on scientific matters by University of Victoria and Camosun College scientists. With the exception of councillors Tara Ney and Eric Zhelka, Mayor Nils Jensen and council have demonstrated a puzzling resistance to facts, expertise and planning.

Our proposal includes a values-based survey of Oak Bay residents, which would provide important information on issues and attitudes in the community concerning deer. This survey has already been drafted by experts in this field, independent of the UWSS, and would be administered and interpreted by independent experts.

With the support of mayor and council, it would have guided our elected representatives in making informed decisions on deer management. Instead, council moved to look into the costs of their own independent survey of public attitudes. We contend that the mayor’s expressed preference for using a “polling company” rather than a scientifically developed survey will not provide the necessary information for informed deer management.

UWSS has always been clear that our objective is to provide science-based recommendations for non-lethal deer management alternatives, and that our work is guided by an independent science advisory group. It was puzzling and disappointing to hear Mayor Jensen dismiss the mandate of the UWSS as an “anti-cull advocacy organization” that “only provides information.”

We are a science- and community-based, non-profit, volunteer-powered group, ready to partner on a best-practices action plan – one that we have developed over the past year. Our sole objective is to help Oak Bay deal with the issue of human-deer conflict in a scientifically sound, fiscally responsible and humane way.

A year ago the mayor and some council members felt that public health and safety warranted a lethal cull. This cull, ineffective in reducing the deer population, divided our community.  Since then council has provided no public education on living with urban deer, deer management did not make council’s priority list and council rejected an opportunity to apply for financial support through the provincial government’s recent deer management cost-sharing program. This is despite our encouragement and offer to help prepare the application. Although council is rightly concerned with costs, they have not considered the cost to the taxpayer of doing nothing, or of making uninformed and therefore ineffective decisions.

The UWSS has consistently offered assistance with public education to reduce human-deer conflict, deer counts to estimate population trends, and an immunocontraception program that could potentially see a reduction in the birth of fawns as early as spring of 2017. We have repeatedly been rebuffed by Oak Bay council, which remains stubbornly and perplexingly resistant to working cooperatively with its own citizens on a matter of public policy. We think this is unacceptable. And so should the taxpayers of Oak Bay.

 

Kristy Kilpatrick,

UWSS vice-president

Oak Bay