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Expand Oak Bay deer birth control across region, say Victoria mayor and councillor

Oak Bay’s deer-birth-control efforts should be expanded into a regional program, say Victoria Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe and Mayor Lisa Helps.
A regional approach to deer makes sense, says Victoria Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe.

Oak Bay’s deer-birth-control efforts should be expanded into a regional program, say Victoria Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe and Mayor Lisa Helps.

“I’ve been discussing deer for many, many years because I hear concerns in Victoria of deer, especially in the Fairfield neighbourhood,” said Thornton-Joe.

The two are seeking Victoria council support for Helps to join with other municipal mayors in calling for a meeting with Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Minister Doug Donaldson to discuss regional deer management at the upcoming Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.

Until now, Victoria council’s position has been to wait to see if any funding or partnerships are available to deal with the growing deer population.

Thornton-Joe said the motion arose in response to Esquimalt’s efforts to formalize a deer strategy for the region.

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins said the hope is to speed up the process by which municipalities manage urban deer populations and to pry some cash from the province, “because it is within their jurisdiction, not ours.”

“The process from the province is you have to do three [population] counts. You have to do a survey. You have to do education around living with deer all through that process and then, and only then, can you submit to the government for management,” Desjardins said.

Current permitted deer management at the end of that process is culling, she said.

In 2015, a cull was attempted in Oak Bay that killed about 11 deer over two years, but that program prompted a backlash from some residents and animal-rights activists.

“We know that didn’t work in Oak Bay, so we’re all saying we’d like to get on board with what Oak Bay is doing now, which is the immunocontraceptive program, because we see that as the way of the future,” Desjardins said.

Thornton-Joe said a regional approach makes sense, or “Saanich and Victoria deer will just walk into Oak Bay to fill those gaps and we won’t be able to deal effectively with the issue.”

Thornton-Joe said that over the past six to nine years, residents in both Fairfield and Gonzales have said deer are becoming more of a concern.

Esquimalt is looking at working with the Department of National Defence on an immunocontraceptive program for its lands at CFB Esquimalt, given that deer roam between the base and the municipality, Desjardins said.

Desjardins said Esquimalt’s deer population is estimated at at well over 100, and at least that many make DND lands their home.

A report this year pegged the number of deer in Oak Bay at between 72 and 128.

Oak Bay is working with the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society on a program to give as many as 80 female deer an immunocontraceptive vaccine, which induces the does to produce antibodies that prevent fertilization.

A short-acting tranquilizer will be used on the deer while the immunocontraceptive is injected.

The animals will also be tagged so the team knows which ones have been treated.

The population count was conducted by an independent team in co-operation with the district, the provincial government and the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society.

Researchers collected data on population density and distribution by putting radio collars on 20 does last year, and setting up 39 remote cameras on private and public properties across Oak Bay.