Greater Victoria municipalities hope for region-wide effort to control deer population

Capital Region mayors hope deer birth control measures could expand beyond Oak Bay

Mayors from across the capital region are banding together to tackle the issues with the local deer populations.

After a recent mayors’ luncheon hosted by the Township of Esquimalt, most regional mayors agreed to signing a joint letter drafted to the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development asking Minister Doug Donaldson to support a region-wide deer management strategy.

Working individually, said Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins, takes too much time and resources with little efficacy.

READ MORE: Esquimalt considers birth control for its deer population

“Right now it takes three years of counting deer, plus surveys, plus ongoing consultations which are really costly and which don’t make any changes to the deer population,” Desjardins said. “I want to make sure we get all the signatures we possibly can. We know that united we’ll do better.”

Presently the province holds all governance over animal control, and traditionally only approved culling or translocation of deer as population growth deterrent measures. However, studies pointed out by the Township of Esquimalt indicated that neither of these options are good solutions, stating that culling is inhumane and ineffective since voids in one region are quickly filled by deer from another region.

This summer the District of Oak Bay is undergoing an experimental campaign to sterilize deer in an effort approved by the province for research purposes. The District is giving immuno-contraception to a portion of the deer population throughout the summer and into the fall.

ALSO READ: Confrontation with deer sends cyclist to hospital in Oak Bay

In March the Township of Esquimalt voted to move forward in pursuing birth control options for local deer, after conducting two surveys in Esquimalt and on the CFB Esquimalt. The surveys showed that the Township has 135 black tail deer, while the base has around 60. Comparatively, Oak Bay has between 78 and 128 deer.

Esquimalt also learned that 52 per cent of residents have spent money to prevent deer from damaging their property, while 13 per cent have encountered aggressive behaviour from deer.

So far Esquimalt, Oak Bay and View Royal have signed the letter, and this week the City of Victoria will bring up the letter for discussion at the committee of the whole meeting. The District Saanich also voiced support for the idea.

ALSO READ: Oak Bay one step closer to deer immunocontraceptive test

“I’ve been putting deer management on our discussion for strategic plan of many years now. I hear from citizens that they’re frustrated whether deer are eating vegetables or flowers, or if there are concerns of drivers hitting deer.” said Victoria City Coun. Charleyne Thornton-Joe, who is bringing the letter forward along with Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. “It really makes sense, the deer have no boundaries,”

Other concerns, she said, include encounters between deer, dogs and people, and a fear of ticks and disease in relation to high deer populations.

So far, the City of Victoria has not conducted any counts or surveys, but Thornton-Joe said she hopes this can be organized with some provincial support.

“Until we can teach deer to read a sign and listen to municipal boundaries, we need to do this as a regional effort,” Thornton-Joe said.

Municipal leaders are hoping the letter can be signed and forwarded to the minister in time for it to be discussed at September’s Union of BC Municipalities convention.  

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