Stay out of the deer-control business, staff advise CRD

The Capital Regional District shouldn’t get into the deer-management business, say CRD staff.

The region should limit its role to sharing lessons learned from a pilot deer-management program conducted over the past two years, says a staff report going to directors this week.

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Deer were culled in Oak Bay and Central Saanich in two CRD-funded pilot projects.

The report notes that the provincial government is responsible for wildlife in the province and is the approving authority for animal-management activity.

The province is expected to indicate within the next couple of months how it intends to respond to municipal concerns about human-deer conflicts in urban areas.

“I think the recommendation is reasonable, given all the circumstances,” said North Saanich Mayor Alice Finall, who chairs the planning, transportation and protective services committee that will be discussing the report.

Finall said deer will continue to be an issue facing local politicians.

CRD staff say no municipality has approached the CRD asking it to take an ongoing role in deer management, and many of the tasks associated with deer management can only be undertaken by municipalities.

That no municipalities approached the CRD was telling, said Finall. “Some municipalities don’t see it as an issue. Some of them don’t, perhaps, have the same level of urban deer concerns that others do.”

Victoria Coun. Chris Coleman said if the CRD is not going to take on deer management, Victoria will have to take action on its own.

“If it’s going to be dealt with at a municipal level, then we’re going to have to look at actually having a discussion with our publics individually.

“So Victoria or Oak Bay, if they wanted to do their cull again, I would assume it would be wise to do a referendum so at least you knew what your publics are saying,” Coleman said.

Last year, Coleman conducted an unofficial telephone poll of about 275 residents in which one of the questions he asked was whether the city should undertake a deer-management plan that might include a cull.

There was about 70 per cent support, he said.

Given that only a handful of municipalities are interested in deer management, it’s doubtful economies of scale can be achieved from a regional service, the report says.

“One of the few areas where there might be value in intermunicipal collaboration would be with respect to the hiring of a contractor who could undertake work in more than one jurisdiction.

“Such collaboration can, however, take place between interested municipalities without CRD involvement.”

For the time being, geese, bullfrogs and beavers should continue to be managed, as needed, by CRD divisions for health and safety, the report says.

Since 2013, the CRD has budgeted about $220,000 for two deer-management pilot projects (Oak Bay also contributed $30,000) — one in Central Saanich and one in Oak Bay that saw 11 urban deer trapped and killed.

Oak Bay’s controversial cull, which prompted protests, was conducted over 16 days.

Traps were set up on private property and the deer were killed with a bolt gun.

First Nations were offered the killed deer.

In the rural pilot project, 16 farms were visited by the CRD since 2013 for crop-damage inspection.

Staff provided information on fencing, municipal permits, firearms licences and use of scaring and hazing tactics.

The CRD report does not say how many rural deer were culled.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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