A special Committee of the Whole Meeting to hear from the public and from CRD staff on the results of their deer management strategy was packed. Chairs in Council Chambers were filled and people spilled out into the Hall’s lobby to take seats there where they could see and hear proceedings via our new audio/visual system.
The audience was respectful and listened to CRD staff and to the 32 members of the public who spoke to both sides of the issue. Of these 32, it is worth noting that 13 individuals spoke against reducing the local deer population and 19 supported a reduction program. The 32 speakers also included non-residents and representatives of deer protection organizations, as well as Chair of the Oak Bay Parks and Recreation Commission.
This is a complex, emotional public health and safety issue when it comes to making a decision about how best to deal with deer over-population in an urban environment, where there are no natural predators. In fact, urban deer have a long history of conflict in urban centres — they are attracted to urban environments because of loss of their own natural habitats, wildlife feeding and hunting restrictions.
Based on last night’s meeting, it is clear that consequences of a high urban deer population in Oak Bay are focused on:
- Damage to gardens, landscaping and urban forests.
- Vehicle collisions (safety).
- Loss of property uses for children and families (health).
The CRD is seeking each municipality’s input on the following (taken from their strategy):
- support the region pursuing fence subsidies from senior governments for agricultural operations;
- work with the region on public education regarding use of repellent;
- provide input on dealing with aggressive deer;
- support the region pursuing changes to public hunting regulations;
- support the region’s efforts to enhance First Nations harvest;
- advise whether the District wishes to pursue a capture and euthanize approach to population reduction;
- review road signage, speed limits and consider refinements;
- partner with the CRD to expand public education;
- track deer-related complaints and circumstances where the District is contacted;
- formalize participation via membership on a Regional Deer Management Strategy oversight committee.
I listened carefully to all speakers and noted their comments. While no Council decisions were made nor did we debate the issue during or at the meeting, we did ask questions of the CRD and of some wildlife biology experts who work/have worked with deer populations in the field.
My questions related to a product called Spayvac, a vaccine that sterilizes female deer for up to 5 years. My understanding from the representative of the company who makes it, himself a wildlife biologist, is that the product has not been approved for use in Canada at this stage. He stated, however, that the provincial veterinarian can obtain a variety of drugs and approve their use. It’s obvious to me that whatever methods a community chooses to manage its deer over-population, it will require senior government approval.
Did you know:
- the average life span of a deer is approximately 12 years.
- the females normally nest in one location and do not move around.
- the males tend to move around and roam.
- in 2012, 23 deer carcasses were removed from Oak Bay by public works staff and the number this year to date, is 11.
I must point out that deer being maimed, injured and killed on our local roadways and in other settings is inhumane, apart from the threat to public safety.
I learned new information and I was appreciative of the time and effort OB residents and others made to attend and participate in the meeting. I gather that the issue will be re-visited by Council at the June 24th Council meeting. Stay tuned…