Oak Bay faces deer dilemma; shoo them into Saanich, some say

Deer have overrun genteel Oak Bay, destroying gardens, fouling lawns and sparking worries about disease.

Homeowners have told city officials they are using shop vacuums to clean up deer droppings, investing thousands of dollars in deer fencing and dousing their yards in Bobbex deer repellent.

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The problem is so bad that “bobbexing” has become a verb in Oak Bay, resident Fred Pishalski told a packed meeting at municipal hall this week.

Far from being repelled, however, deer seem drawn to the district’s well-tended yards and upscale neighbourhoods. A number have even taken up residence at the members-only Victoria Golf Club, apparently without paying the $35,000 entry fee or obtaining the necessary endorsement of two active members.

Just how many deer have slipped behind the Tweed Curtain is anyone’s guess. There has never been an accurate count of urban deer, but a district report shows that the number of deer fatalities in Oak Bay is on the rise.

There were three deaths in 2007, eight in 2010, 14 in 2011 and 23 last year. There have been 11 reported deaths so far in 2013.

Most of the deer were hit by cars, and either died instantly or were euthanized by police. But a number of deer died in gruesome ways, the report said. One was impaled on a fence, another fell through a swimming pool cover and drowned. A third crashed through the ice on a frozen fish pond.

Residents are sick of the carnage and the damage to their properties. They want elected officials to take action, although there is little consensus on what that means.

Some advocate a cull. Some want to trap the female deer and sterilize them by inoculation. Some want to drive the deer out of Oak Bay and into Saanich.

Others say people should embrace the wildlife in their midst. A number of speakers recommended people plant vegetation that is unpalatable to deer.

“Grow daffodils, not tulips and you won’t be angry,” Noreen Taylor told the public meeting.

Most of the speakers seemed less angry than exasperated and desperate. They told council that they’re tired of cleaning up deer excrement and chasing deer from their gardens. Parents worry about their children getting trampled or contracting Lyme disease, which is carried by ticks that attach themselves to deer.

“I’ve lost my garden, but most of all, my children have lost the ability to play in their yard,” said Lucy Mears.

Owen Stacey said there are three or four deer in his backyard every day. He uses a shop vacuum to clean up the feces in order to protect the health of his two-year-old daughter.

“Something needs to happen in Oak Bay now — not in two years,” he said.

Mayor Nils Jensen said Oak Bay council will take the public’s suggestion into account when it debates the issue June 24.

One option is to partner with the Capital Regional District on a pilot project this fall. Solutions range from better fencing and public education to an enhanced First Nations harvest or a strategy to trap and euthanize the deer.

“Certainly, we have to move as expeditiously as possible,” Jensen said.

“There’s no question about that. But we also have to recognize that we have to find as humane a way to deal with the problem as possible.”

lkines@timescolonist.com

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