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Greater Victoria politicians keep eye on Oak Bay’s deer cull

As Oak Bay moves closer to its cull of 25 deer, no one is watching the pilot program more closely than local politicians in nearby municipalities. “No matter what happens in Oak Bay, we’ve still got an issue here in Victoria.
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A deer walks along the road in VictoriaÕs Rockland neighbourhood. Mayors and councillors in Victoria, Esquimalt and View Royal say the result of Oak BayÕs deer cull will have an influence on the deer-management strategies in their municipalities.

As Oak Bay moves closer to its cull of 25 deer, no one is watching the pilot program more closely than local politicians in nearby municipalities.

“No matter what happens in Oak Bay, we’ve still got an issue here in Victoria. So we should be turning our minds to that,” said Victoria Coun. Chris Coleman.

“We’re seeing the [deer] population continuing to grow,” said Coleman, adding that, at some point soon, Victoria will have to develop and implement some sort of deer management. But, he added, deer management doesn’t necessarily mean a cull.

“I don’t care what the management plan is. I care that we have a management plan. We can get into the arguments about cull or capture and transport or those people who feel we can drug the does with a sterilizing drug that lasts for five year — whatever. But we’re going to have to have the discussion,” Coleman said.

Coleman said his primary concern in addressing the deer issue is lyme disease.

“What scares the daylights out of me is that there’s a relationship between the number of deer and therefore the number of deer ticks and it’s relation to lyme disease. There are three kinds of ticks that carry lyme disease: avian, rodent and deer. Deer, are however, the only animals in that trilogy that carry the lyme bacillus. The others are just carriers. They carry the tick but they don’t carry the disease. Deer do,” Coleman said.

In August, prior to November’s municipal election, Coleman conducted his own telephone poll of residents on three issues: Victoria’s new 40 km/h speed zones, sewage treatment positions and deer.

He found 70 per cent of respondents favoured a management plan, even if it involved a cull.

“I was a little surprised at the vehemence in the deer management. There were a whole bunch of people who were almost bordering on blood thirsty,” he said.

Both Esquimalt and View Royal councils followed many of the recommendations from the CRD’s deer management strategy, including landscaping alternatives, public education on deer-resistant plants and repellents, prohibiting deer feeding and improved fencing.

But Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins and View Royal Mayor David Screech say problems with deer persist.

“We do have a significant deer problem and residents are quite concerned about it,” Desjardins said.

Screech agreed.

“Looking down the road you can see it becoming a completely unmanageable and untenable situation,” he said. “We obviously have to take some action now to deal with it.”

Desjardins said most local politicians are now simply watching the Oak Bay pilot run its course.

“Since Oak Bay is persisting and wanting to follow through on this process, I feel that, if they do, we’ll all learn from that in some way,” she said.

Helen Koning, Oak Bay’s chief administrator officer, is trying to arrange a confidential meeting this week with the cull contractor, two B.C. SPCA officials, and provincial veterinarian Dr. Helen Schwantje.

The SPCA requested the meeting out of fear there may be deer throats’ cut while the animals are conscious if bolt shots to the head are not fatal. A spokesman for the province, which has approved the cull until March 15, said that would be rare.

“We are confident that our process is thorough, professional and humane,” Koning said.

While problems with urban deer continue to make headlines, a fairly aggressive hunting program on the Saanich Peninsula has seen farmers’ complaints about deer drop off dramatically in the past couple of years.

One bow hunter, who, requested anonymity, estimated more than 100 deer have been culled under nuisance permit in the past couple of years.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

With file from Katherine Dedyna