Oak Bay councillors vote to pursue deer cull

Oak Bay council has voted unanimously in favour of reducing its burgeoning deer population by culling and expects to work with the Capital Regional District to do so.

But “there are multiple steps that have to be completed before we actually see a cull,” Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen said Tuesday. First, the CRD must come up with a plan that Oak Bay approves, then the province must approve the joint proposal. “We’re told it might take some time for the province to approve the plan — as much as six to 12 months,” Jensen said.

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The way deer in Oak Bay are currently “culled by car” is not a humane solution to dealing with over-population, Jensen said. “Five years ago, Oak Bay Public Works received no calls to remove any deer carcasses; last year, they had 23 occasions when they had to remove a carcass in Oak Bay. And so far this year, we’re on target for the same number.”

The CRD plan would consider how many deer to cull, the method of culling and where it would be done. Oak Bay is looking for advice from the CRD, along with what to do with the meat.

Oak Bay also passed a motion asking the CRD to explore a request by the Ahousaht First Nation to partner with them to move deer to their traditional territories on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Jensen surmised that “tranquillizing and moving the deer is not something that is likely to be approved by the province.”

The CRD has a budget of $150,000 for two deer-control pilot projects — one urban and one rural — that would implement measures over the course of a year. A CRD standing committee is expected to consider deer-related comments from all municipalities by the end of July, then produce its plan.

The CRD could get back to Oak Bay in August, said Margaret Miske-Evans, CRD acting general manager of planning, transportation and protective services.

Miske-Evans said the CRD deer strategy is not triggered only by complaints from worried urbanites — the biggest issue is the loss to agricultural producers. “Clearly, it’s impinging on everyone.”

The Victoria public works department is called to deal with only four or five deer carcasses per year, with “no notable changes over the past few years,” said city spokeswoman Katie Josephson. But the Saanich Pound responded to 461 calls regarding deer last year, 39 of which involved animals that needed to be put down. “The rest of the deer were either already dead, injured, problematic and needed assessment, or reported as injured but gone on arrival,” said inspector Susan Ryan in an email.

Oak Bay parents have told council of concerns that deer feces prevent children from playing in their own yards. One grandparent feared a frantic deer that leaped into his yard while pursued by dogs could have injured a grandchild.

Most of the deer that die in Oak Bay are hit by cars; others have drowned in ponds or pools or died after being caught in fencing, Jensen noted. “That is not a solution and that will continue until we find another way to deal with the deer.”

Jensen said communities such as Cranbrook and Kimberley have treated unwanted deer much like cattle, sheep or pigs, using bolt guns to kill them.

DeerSafeVictoria was formed in January 2012 to oppose a cull as “cruel and inefficient,” according to its website. It accuses the CRD of “acting to meet the interests of private property owners and special-interest groups who see the deer as a nuisance.” Its website says deer are lured to a baited trap and held overnight until workers come in the morning to kill them with a bolt gun to the head.

kdedyna@timescolonist.com

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