Oak Bay earmarks $40,000 for managing deer

Oak Bay has earmarked $40,000 in its budget for deer management this year and may investigate relocation as a method of population control, Mayor Nils Jensen says.

“When we went into the pilot project last year, we really only had one option available to us according to the guidance we received from the provincial government, and that was a cull,” Jensen said.

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Since then, provincial policy about relocating deer has changed, he said. “So that may be an option for us.”

Under a pilot project to begin this year, mule deer are to be captured in Elkford, Cranbrook, Kimberley and Invermere and transported to winter range areas in the East Kootenay region, where natural non-urban mule deer populations have been in decline, says an Oak Bay staff report.

Jensen said getting a relocation program up and running will be time-consuming.

“One of the concerns we’ll have is whether or not we have the staff capacity to put a program like that together,” he said. “There’s lots of challenges, not the least of which is: If we are permitted to relocate, where do we relocate to?”

Oak Bay has taken a lead in the capital region in trying to manage urban deer. Since 2013, the Capital Regional District and Oak Bay have spent a combined $270,000 for two deer-management pilot projects — one in Central Saanich and one in Oak Bay.

Eleven deer were killed in Oak Bay’s cull, prompting protests. The deer were trapped on private property and killed with a bolt gun.

Jensen said Oak Bay will also consider contraceptive immunization injections and look at applying for some of the $100,000 in funding the province has committed for urban deer management.

The Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society made a proposal to Oak Bay last year to capture, tag and release deer in the municipality and to sterilize 25 does with the contraceptive vaccine SpayVac.

Oak Bay set aside $5,000 toward the initiative. The municipality released half the funds in July and will release the balance once the society obtains the necessary permits.

Four deer counts conducted in Oak Bay between Oct. 23 and Nov. 13 last year found between 48 and 55 deer. The counts suggested there was one deer for every two kilometres of street. Sixty per cent were females and they appeared to be in good condition.

Oak Bay councillors will discuss the issue at a Feb. 15 committee of the whole meeting.

Jensen said there seems to be agreement that there is an overpopulation of deer and that a management plan is needed.

“That doesn’t seem to be subject to any opposition at this point,” he said.

“I think what council could benefit from, certainly, is having a better understanding of what the contraceptive immunization program would look like and how much it would cost and the effectiveness of it.”

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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