Skip to content
Join our Newsletter
Join our Newsletter

Lawrie McFarlane: Deer problems? Put a few coyotes on the job

Vancouver Island just needs to import a few coyotes and foxes to take care of its problem deer and geese.
web1_20210723120740-60faf177242c32188d3798d5jpeg
A dozen or two coyotes could put a serious dent in the deer population, writes ­Lawrie McFarlane. JONATHAN HAYWARD, THE CANADIAN PRESS

Watching what’s going on in our yards and our fields, the lyrics of Home on the Range come to mind. A slightly modified version: “Oh give me a home, where the Canada geese roam, and the deer and the black bears play, where seldom is heard a courageous word, and the skies are cloudy all day.” The Saanich peninsula to a tee.

Instead of perfectly futile efforts to rid Greater Victoria of thousands of deer by neutering a handful, and hoping to clear a sky-full of geese by addling a few eggs, I have a suggestion.

Some time back, I wrote a piece ­puzzling over why there are no foxes or coyotes on Vancouver Island. They’re now endemic in the Lower Mainland. Indeed, you can’t eat a sandwich in ­Stanley Park without a coyote trying to muscle in.

The answer I was given by a wildlife specialist is that there likely were such critters on our green and pleasant isle some ways back. But they ate their way out of hearth and home, and disappeared like snow in a Saanich spring.

I found that a bit odd. After all, we have squirrels and raccoons, marmots and even the occasional wolf. So why no foxes and coyotes? And particularly now, when the capital region is practically a smorgasbord all ready to be served.

It’s not like these predators steer away from human habitation. While some of the continent’s larger denizens have retreated in the face of advancing human habitation, grizzly bears most notably, foxes and coyotes thrive in city environs. My sister in London, England, has a fox living in her backyard.

So here is my suggestion. Import a few dozen foxes and coyotes from the ­mainland, and let them loose in our ­pastures and woods.

American research shows that a pack of three to four coyotes can eat up to 120 pounds of venison a month. Since the average blacktail deer (the sort found munching our veggies) weighs less than 100 pounds, much of which is inedible hide and bones, a dozen or two coyotes could put a serious dent in the deer ­population.

And foxes? While their diet varies — they’ll happily eat rats, mice and other small pests — geese are definitely on the menu, especially the younger ones.

At a rough calculation, 30 or so foxes could conceivably rid our fields of, say, six geese a day, or a couple of thousand per year. That would definitely be a start.

I’m guessing these are high-end ­estimates. But we’re in this for the long haul, and at the rate our goose population is surging, outdoor farming will become increasingly unprofitable as time passes.

Moreover, there is no political will to be directly responsible for euthanizing large numbers of cute Bambies and ­turning even cuter goslings into orphans. Ain’t gonna happen.

Sure there’s a downside. Look what happened when some idiot introduced European starlings to our continent.

Nevertheless, if we want to take back our gardens and help out our farmers, I say bring on the foxes and coyotes.