Deer-cull protesters stalk Oak Bay mayor’s home

Protesters descended on Mayor Nils Jensen’s home Saturday, urging him to reconsider Oak Bay’s participation in a Capital Regional District pilot project to cull 25 deer over the next year.

About 45 people marched down Oak Bay Avenue carrying signs and singing. At the last minute, the group decided to bring its message home to Jensen and marched down the street where he lives.

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The mayor, however, was not at home and learned about the protest later in the afternoon.

“I think it’s highly inappropriate,” Jensen said. “It really amounts to bullying to get someone to change their mind. I don’t think it adds much to the debate.”

Oak Bay council this month approved a plan to trap and kill 25 deer, with the venison, hide, antlers and hooves going to Songhees First Nation.

The aim of the $12,500 initiative is to reduce the number of deer in the municipality and calm residents who have complained about deer taking over backyards, munching on garden shrubs and devouring homegrown vegetables.

The council also cited health and safety concerns. Last year, 23 deer carcasses were retrieved from roadsides by public works crews. There have been 34 so far this year.

“The worst thing about the cull is that these animals are going to die because they are inconvenient,” said Kelly Carson, the protest’s organizer and a member of DeerSafe Victoria. “This isn’t about health and safety. This is about inconvenience and annoyance.”

Carson said she opposes the cull because the deer will not be killed humanely.

According to the Ministry of Forest Lands and Natural Resource Operations, the most common method for catching deer is baiting them with apples or alfalfa in a “clover trap” made of netting. The deer is caught in the net and killed with a bolt gun, which drives a metal bolt into the animal’s brain, similar to what is used on cattle in slaughterhouses.

Carson said the animals tend to go for the bait early, then spend the night thrashing around in the trap.

“Before dawn, two men need to collapse the trap onto the deer,” she said.

“They throw their body weight onto the deer and they use a captive bolt gun to try and fire it into the brain of the struggling animal. It can’t be done humanely.”

Another protester, Susan Ko, said she welcomes deer in her Oak Bay garden.

“I think they have just as much right to be here as we do,” she said. “It’s that simple for me.”

Ko said she was disappointed in Oak Bay council and believes members were swayed by people interested in the meat.

“The research shows this is not going to be successful and it’s not humane,” Ko said. “I know some people have hit them with their cars, and that must be very traumatic. But people crash into trees all the time. We don’t cut them down.”

Oak Bay council will continue to look at the deer management issue. The terms of reference set out steps — including public education — that have to be taken before the cull takes place, said Jensen.

“It’s conceivable once we’ve taken these other steps, we may not need to take the cull,” he said. “The cull’s been approved if we get to that stage. … I fully appreciate this is an emotional issue for a lot of people and for council.”

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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