Saying the problem farmers are having with deer is reaching a crisis point, Capital Regional District directors on Wednesday urged fast action on a proposed deer management strategy.
The strategy will go to municipalities for consideration and feedback — a necessary next step before appealing to the province to implement measures outside of local control, such as a cull or changes to hunting regulations.
CRD directors also agreed to spend $150,000 to implement the strategy and to have staff fast-track discussions with municipalities with large agricultural areas, such as Saanich, Central Saanich and North Saanich.
Saanich farmer Rob Galey said the time for action is now, adding that fencing is not working
“These are not wild deer any more. They live here and they are not going anywhere. There is no real option here but to have a cull,” Galey said, adding he prefers a regional strategy to deal with the problem rather than having to resort to killing deer on his property himself.
Unless action is taken, local farms will be lost, he said. “You guys are going to have to stand up today and decide whether you want to save your farms or not because I’m here to tell you we’re not going to make it a couple of more years with losses like this year.”
North Saanich Coun. Ted Daly also said there is no time for delay. “We can’t just keep sitting back, the 24 or 25 of us, because this process keeps evolving,” he said.
A CRD citizens advisory committee recommended different options for rural, agricultural and urban areas and includes a gamut of possible options from fencing to a reduction of deer population.
Deterrents must be considered before the regional district will ask the province to approve a cull or to change hunting regulations.
Metchosin Mayor John Ranns said sending the report to municipalities is the logical next step.
“I believe this is the absolute best approach we can take in order to get measures in place for the spring planting season for the farmers,” he said.
After receiving the report, each municipality would decide which measures it wants to adopt, Ranns said. “The expectation would be that the CRD would then act as a central agency in taking the recommendations from the municipalities to the province.”
Juan de Fuca director Mike Hicks said it makes sense to tailor deer management to urban, rural and agricultural areas.
“We should focus on one thing — that’s how to give the farmers the tools to protect their crops. I suggest that means unlimited year-round hunting with no bag limit on farms,” Hicks said.
CRD directors also endorsed a goose management strategy that calls for co-operation with farmers, the province and First Nations. The strategy includes habitat modification, egg addling (shaking eggs so they don’t hatch) and more efficient hunting.
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