During what was admittedly a truly difficult discussion and decision, I voted with Council (it was unanimous) to endorse, in separate motions, eight of the ten points presented in the CRD’s Deer Management Strategy, including asking the CRD for detailed information on costing, methodologies and outcomes, for a plan that would assist Oak Bay to humanely reduce its deer population (Item 6.)
During my comments on the motions, I spoke to public health and safety issues created by urban deer over-population, and I acknowledged extensive feedback from the majority of Oak Bay residents requesting us to take action on this critical issue.
Moreover, I have the unique experience of having served as a Councillor in a rural and agricultural community, where deer over-population is taking a significant toll on crops, farming and local food production. I have been aware of problems of deer over-population for at least the past 6 years and I understand that Oak Bay has been aware of the problem for approximately 8 to 10 years.
As some of my Council colleagues rightly point out, Oak Bay is not a natural environment in which urban deer should live — there are no natural predators and our beautiful landscape is constricted, contrived, maintained and manicured, set amidst major transportation corridors to and from the city core.
While I appreciate and understand the points made by speakers who want to protect urban deer, I cannot ignore the body of evidence presented to us by the CRD, by experts in the field and by our own residents and their families. In addition, I have observed deer in high-risk situations in Oak Bay and elsewhere and am fully aware of the negative impacts uncontrolled urban deer populations are having on our Oak Bay community.
Those who want to protect urban deer and treat them humanely, but still manage them without reducing their numbers, must recognize that urban deer over-population has unintended consequences. Sadly, urban deer are currently being stressed and reduced under threatening and inhumane conditions — deer and people are often in direct conflict, posing real risks to both, from motor vehicle collisions, other accidents, starvation of young deer, related health issues, dogs and illegal hunting, to name just a few of our urban hazards. Are such conditions acceptable? I don’t believe so.
This issue will be coming back to this Council once the CRD has met our request for additional planning information, designed not only to inform next steps but to give us a better understanding of what other communities in the region are/will be doing about deer.
Finally, I share the belief that deer management is also a regional issue that needs a coordinated response to achieve long term, effective results for both urban and rural communities. Stay tuned…