Silence surrounds Oak Bay deer cull

With barely a week until the end of the controversial seven-week Oak Bay deer cull, animal advocates have received no evidence that 25 deer have been trapped and killed under a provincial permit.

“The silence is scary — we have not received a single call from a witness,” said Sara Dubois, chief scientific officer for the B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. She suggested the traps may be on secluded properties, allowing the cull contractor to drive in and out without being noticed.

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Supporters of the anti-cull group DeerSafe Victoria are monitoring areas of Oak Bay for evidence of deer being killed, said founder Kelly Carson. “The fact that no one has seen or heard anything could mean that the cull hasn’t started, won’t happen or is being conducted more covertly than anyone expected.

“It’s alarming to know that the contractor is out there at night with CRD staff, avoiding citizens like common criminals, in order to put a bolt gun through the heads of trapped deer.”

DeerSafe sent out more than 5,600 notices to Oak Bay and area households asking to be notified of any evidence of the deer cull so they could make a video recording.

Mayor Nils Jensen refused to say whether any deer have been dispatched by bolts, saying the municipality is preparing a news release for early next week. “That’ll all come out.”

Jensen said he believes the four or five traps permitted for use until March 15 have been placed only on private property. Details have been kept secret to protect property owners’ privacy and avoid vandalism or harassment of the contractor, he said.

After deer advocates asked people to come forward if they saw traps, several property owners volunteered their properties for the pilot project. The vast majority of Oak Bay residents are in favour of the “rather modest” cull, the mayor said.

The cull period will not be extended, as it’s set by the ministry based on the birthing and gestation cycles of deer, Jensen said. White-tail fawns are born in late spring.

Meanwhile, Cranbrook’s urban deer cull stopped suddenly early Friday after four traps on private property were vandalized Thursday night and rendered useless, East Kootenay News Online reported. Cranbrook Mayor Lee Pratt said criminal or civil action will be pursued if warranted. In 11 days, four mule deer had been trapped and killed.

Oak Bay cull opponent Kristy Kilpatrick said “there has been zero suggestion” of vandalizing traps here. “People just want to know that the deer have a witness and are frustrated that if, as the provincial vet and the mayor and CAO [chief administrative officer] of Oak Bay have said, the procedure is humane, why this is all so shrouded in secrecy.”

Oak Bay’s cull contract specifies that the traps, roughly the size of a double hockey net, must be checked for deer every 24 hours and baited every evening.

The cull is part of a $150,000 Capital Regional District deer-management pilot project. Oak Bay’s share of that is capped at $15,000.

Kilpatrick said taxpayers are paying to remove “what a few private citizens consider to be a ‘nuisance’ in their gardens — if one had, for instance, an infestation of rats, taxpayers would not be paying for their removal.”

kdedyna@timescolonist.com

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