At Greater Victoria’s ground zero for deer-farmer conflicts, councillors want to look at using sharpshooters and putting a bounty on deer.
As municipalities consider what steps they are willing to take to control deer, Central Saanich council has edged beyond recommendations from the Capital Regional District’s deer-management strategy.
The council has asked staff to investigate opportunities for First Nations and non-First Nations use of sharpshooters for deer, a bounty for deer killed under a population-reduction program and support for First Nations deer harvests.
Councillors also voted to work with the CRD and province to investigate limited use of single-slug and projectile firearms for shooting deer, instead of pellets, and to ask the province to amend hunting regulations and deer bag limits for crop protection.
Central Saanich staff have been asked to come up with a bylaw allowing public deer hunting and another prohibiting deer feeding.
Responsibility for bylaw and rule changes is split between municipalities and the province. The CRD is co-ordinating some of the response to a growing concern about deer eating and damaging crops, and munching through gardens.
The CRD, which will be given a deer management strategy update Wednesday, has acknowledged that approaches are likely to differ in agricultural and urban settings.
CRD staff have met with representatives from the province as well as municipal staff from North Saanich, Central Saanich and Saanich to look at the best ways to implement a deer strategy — paying particular attention to solving deer problems on farms.
CRD chairman and Central Saanich Mayor Alastair Bryson said the recommendations in his municipality followed a meeting with farmers.
“We are relaying the concerns about the urgency and the need to move forward in light of the growing season,” he said.
Safety is the first concern if the municipality moves ahead on sharpshooters or relaxed hunting regulations, Bryson said.
Deer-protection groups believe Central Saanich is going too far.
“These are pretty drastic recommendations. A bounty is going back to the Dark Ages — people will think they can make a few bucks — and sharpshooters are dangerous for the public at large,” said Val Boswell of DeerSafe.
Fencing and establishing wildlife corridors make more sense, she said.
Susan Vickery of Earthanimal Humane Education and Rescue Society said no studies have found an abundance of deer in any specific area. “They want a bounty on deer when there may not even be an over-population issue,” she said.
“All these people are getting over-excited and saying something has to be done. Good fencing is as far as it needs to go. This is excessive.”
At a North Saanich council meeting Monday night, staff were recommending against a controlled public hunt, saying that if councillors were to endorse deer population reduction measures, they should be related to crop-damage mitigation or First Nations hunting.
Staff recommended that council amend its firearm bylaw to sanction bow hunting and to allow farmers to hire hunters to carry out crop-protection hunting on their behalf, and that a bylaw that prohibits feeding wildlife be considered.
North Saanich staff worried that a capture-and-euthanize program would be too costly for the municipality to take on alone, but said it would be worth considering as a regional or provincial program.
Saanich staff are also drafting a report about the deer issue.
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