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What to do with dead animals in Saanich?

Saanich council is planning a one-year pilot program starting this summer to contract out the retrieval and dumping of hundreds of dead animals found on public property each year.
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Deer can become aggressive during fawning season, Saanich police say

Saanich council is planning a one-year pilot program starting this summer to contract out the retrieval and dumping of hundreds of dead animals found on public property each year.

It’s estimated that disposal of more than 300 dead animals, mostly deer, found in Saanich each year will cost about $50,000, partially offset by $7,500 from the police budget for animal disposal.

“It’s a significant problem and cost to each municipality,” said Coun. Karen Harper.

Contracting out the service starting June 1 means animal bylaw-enforcement officers, through Saanich police, will no longer be responsible for removing and disposing of dead wildlife.

The move was prompted by a police board decision on Dec. 3 to end the service by June 1 and transfer it to the district.

“I’m very much in favour of contracting this out,” Coun. Nathalie Chambers said. “This is not the job of police, in my opinion. I have seen the police struggle with very large wildlife when they could be watching traffic and speeding on rural roads.”

Saanich staff have found a local contractor who is already providing the service for neighbouring municipalities and willing to take on Saanich.

A report to council from Harley Machielse, director of engineering, says the primary mandate of the Saanich pound is to respond to calls for service and enforcement of the animal control bylaw, dealing with complaints about dogs running at large and dangerous dogs, as well as patrolling the streets, neighbourhoods and Saanich’s 170 parks.

But the pound, which has two full-time members and two part-timers for weekends, has been hampered by the collection and disposal of animal carcasses, the report says. “The pound is challenged to meet an increasing call volume for a community population that has doubled since 1968,” when the pound was created, says the report.

In other municipalities, disposal of dead animals varies between in-house and contracted services. Highlands, View Royal and Langford use contracted services, while in Central Saanich, North Saanich and Nanaimo, it falls under animal control services. In Colwood, Sidney, Victoria, Oak Bay and Esquimalt, meanwhile, it comes under municipal public works.

Saanich is the only municipality with animal-control services located within its police department, according to the engineering director’s report. Saanich’s public works department has traditionally helped out the Saanich pound after regular hours for dead-animal response, but the service has been limited and unfunded, says the report.

Typically, when a dead animal is discovered after hours, a standby staff member must move it if it poses a road safety concern. If there is no public safety issue, or the animal is too large to be moved by one person, staff can be deployed the next morning for retrieval.

Saanich’s public works staff are already busy and have little time to also perform dead-animal removal, says the staff report, and the creation of a standalone service would prove costly, including staffing, a support vehicle, an industrial freezer and ongoing operating costs.

“As a result, external service delivery options were considered as the most viable option,” it says.

The contractor would be responsible for all aspects of the service, including collection, storage and disposal. With the service contracted out, Saanich’s public works department would be required only to administer calls for service. Saanich police would still be called if an injured animal can not be rehabilitated.

Coun. Judy Brownoff made a motion that, in light of the climbing cost of wildlife disposal, the municipality write to B.C.’s environment minister and copy the Insurance Corp.of B.C. “to re-evaluate providing some relief for carcass disposal fees of wildlife.”

Last year, Saanich dealt with 349 deer carcasses killed on roads, while Oak Bay had 125, said Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes.

Saanich spends about $5,000 a year just to dispose of the carcasses — paid for by weight — at Hartland Landfill, said Brownoff.

Noting that the provincial Environment Ministry is responsible for wildlife, Brownoff questioned why municipalities should cover the cost of wildlife disposal.

Deer struck on highways are picked up by the maintenance contractor for the Ministry of Transportation, but when it’s on a municipal road, Saanich is on the hook, she said.

Coun. Susan Brice seconded Brownoff’s motion, but said the letter should be more strongly worded, and ICBC should be asked to pick up the bill.

Coun. Colin Plant amended the motion to ask that copies be sent to all municipalities in the capital region.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com