Sunday, February 12, 2017

It's True – Victoria has received hardly any deer complaints

Through a Freedom of Information Request, DeerSafe Victoria has received all letters of complaint regarding urban deer that were sent to the municipality of Victoria between 2012 and 2016.  The following is a summary.
  • One garden complaint.

  • No complaints.

  • Four letters; two regarding traffic safety, one fearing for the safety of children, one regarding a neighbour feeding deer

  • Two garden complaints.

A Times Colonist article (All Eyes on Kootenay Deer Relocation Program, July 19, 2016) quoted Mayor Helps as stating that she hardly gets any complaints about deer.  That comment prompted three letters and two phone calls.

  • Four letters; three garden complaints (referencing the Mayor's comment in the Times Colonist) and one fearing for the safety of children.
  • Two phone calls logged; one garden complaint and one listing concerns about Lyme Disease, cougars and traffic incidents.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Urban deer a problem, councillors say, but it’s not Victoria’s to solve

Bill Cleverley / Times Colonist
January 7, 2017 12:01 AM

Victoria city councillors say wildlife is a provincial responsibility — not a municipal one.   Photograph By BRUCE STOTESBURY, Times Colonist

Victoria councillors acknowledge that urban deer might be becoming an issue in the city — but they don’t want to be the ones who deal with it.

Councillors agreed this week to have staff report back on the efforts by the provincial government, neighbouring municipalities and the Capital Regional District on urban deer management and to determine the magnitude of the issue.

But they stopped short of having them offer any solutions to deal with deer, agreeing that wildlife is a provincial responsibility — not a municipal one.

“If we’re not going to take on this job, why would we suggest solutions?” said Coun. Margaret Lucas.

“I think this is our issue, but the solution is not ours. I think we have to be very, very careful that we don’t take on a provincial issue. We don’t have the money. Staff don’t have the expertise.”

Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe brought up the topic during a review of the strategic plan.

“I’m noticing and I’m hearing that there are deer in the City of Victoria and we’re getting concerns from our citizens that something needs to be done,” Thornton-Joe told councillors.

“I’m not saying the City of Victoria has to do it nor fund it, but I don’t think we can just turn a blind eye that the issue does exist.”

Other councillors agreed, but weren’t willing to take the lead on something that they said the province should be handling.

“I just don’t want the City of Victoria to get at the front of the deer loop and be the only one taking action,” Coun. Jeremy Loveday said.

“I do think that if action is being taken — and I happen to think that something needs to be done — it does need to be done regionally. You’ve seen by efforts in other municipalities that it doesn’t work if you go it alone.”

Mayor Lisa Helps said she would be happy to get a report.

“I’m not happy to spend one cent on deer management. It is a provincial responsibility. Wildlife is a provincial responsibility. It always has been [and] until something changes it will be,” she said.

“I don’t think we need to ask our staff to start looking at solutions. But if we can make a strong case to the province — Oak Bay has a strong case [and] Esquimalt will be doing some of this work, from what I understand — then collectively we can go to the province and say: ‘We’ve done the research and let’s work together on solutions.’ ”

Resident frustrations with urban deer are percolating throughout the region, but communities are divided on what actions to take.

In a move that divided the community and sparked protests, Oak Bay in 2015 conducted a cull, trapping and killing 11 deer.

Late last year, Oak Bay asked the province to match funds up to $20,000, allowing the municipality to partner with the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society to run a deer-contraception program.

The province turned down the request, saying it wanted more research done.
A recent survey of Esquimalt residents found a majority are willing to pay higher taxes to fund a deer-management program.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Provincial dollars a big win for municipalities, says NDP candidate, Invermere mayor

3 Interior B.C. communities get provincial funding for urban deer culls

Provincial dollars a big win for municipalities, says Invermere mayor

By Matt Meuse, CBC News Posted: Dec 11, 2016 5:00 PM PT

Three B.C. municpalities will recieve provincial funding to manage their urban deer populations. (JL1967/Flickr)

The province is putting up more than $56,000 for urban deer management in Interior B.C. — an important jurisdictional victory for municipalities, according to the mayor of Invermere.
Invermere is getting $10,200 to help cull its urban deer population. Grand Forks is getting $16,000 and Elkford is getting $10,000.
Cranbrook is getting nearly $20,000 for a pilot relocation program.
Gerry Taft, mayor of Invermere, says the money is a win for cities because it's an acknowledgement from the province about its responsibility for the deer.
"We always need permission from the province [to cull or relocate deer]," Taft said. "We always felt that the province should be at the table as the funders, that they should be helping to fund these solutions."

Relocation programs tested

Taft said the funding is on a per-deer basis, with the province doling out $200 per deer. He says that covers most of the cost of the cull, but not all of it.
Invermere has been culling its urban deer population since 2011. Taft says the city's strategy has changed significantly since then; the initial goal was to reduce the population as much as possible, but the city now takes a more strategic approach, culling a smaller number but focusing on especially problematic areas.
The city has also experimented with relocation programs, tagging and moving 13 deer out of the city in 2016.
Taft says the results were mixed. The deer took to the relocation better than expected, but several have already ended up back in town.
"They were moved over 50 kilometres away from Invermere into the backcountry, [but] at least four of those deer have returned to Invermere," he said.

Humans to blame

Wild animal culls are always contentious issues, and Taft says Invermere is no exception.
He said the relocation program shows some promise as an alternative to culling, but the costs might be prohibitive if so many of the deer return to the city anyway.
But Taft says problems with urban deer are, at their core, just as much about humans as about the deer themselves.
To that end, Taft hopes the cull will have the secondary effect of making people realize that their own actions are putting deer at risk — things like feeding deer or leaving garbage unsecured.
"It's about what humans are doing and the behaviour of humans that are attracting deer and allowing them to thrive and stay in these urban environments," he said.
With files from CBC Radio One's Radio West.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Birth control plan for Oak Bay deer hits snag

Province balks at funding untested contraceptive scheme to reduce deer population
By Deborah Wilson, CBC News  Posted: Dec 09, 2016 7:10 PM PT

A plan to put deer on birth control in the Victoria suburb of Oak Bay has hit a snag.

Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen says the B.C. government is calling for more study before it will consider sharing the cost for the plan.

Last month, Oak Bay Council asked for $20,000 from the province.

Communities elsewhere in the province have received provincial funding for deer culls.

"We appear to be the only community in British Columbia at this point that are looking at a non-lethal alternative to cull for deer management," Jensen said.
"Should Oak Bay go forward with a successful fertility control program it can become a model for the rest of the province."

In 2015, Oak Bay tried a deer cull to reduce the deer population. The regional deer management pilot project killed 11 deer but drew strong opposition from the B.C. SPCA and other animal rights groups.

Contraceptive injection proposed

The current plan is to partner with a local stewardship group to trap and inject female deer with an immunocontraceptive serum.

Provincial staff say only one contraceptive drug has ever been used in B.C.and it's not currently in production, so a safe alternative needs to be identified for black-tailed deer.

Other details that need to be worked out include specifics on methods to capture the deer and administer the drug.

Jensen said Oak Bay plan should get conditional approval as a pilot project.

"These urban deer are owned by the province," Jensen said.  "They really have shown a reluctance in the last few years to really do something about it."
To be effective, Jensen said the deer fertility-control program must start three or four months before mating season in September and October.

If financial support from the province is not forthcoming, he said, the fertility-control project won't proceed.

Culls, relocation approved elsewhere

"We'd have to go back to the drawing board for council," he said.
"Our proceeding to this point was conditional on a joint province-local government initiative."

Grand Forks, Invermere and Elford have received provincial funds for deer culls. Cranbrook will also receive funds to study relocation.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Oak Bay to be a partner in deer contraception plan

Bill Cleverley / Times Colonist
November 16, 2016 06:00 AM

Friday: A young buck stops for a quick snack as he makes his rounds on Rockland Avenue. Photograph By BRUCE STOTESBURY, Times Colonist 

Oak Bay plans to partner with the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society to run a deer contraception program in the municipality.
“The hope of the program is that it will reduce the herd in Oak Bay,” Mayor Nils Jensen said Tuesday.
Oak Bay council has agreed to apply to the province for matching funds up to $20,000 to contract with the society to “implement a deer-reduction plan using fertility control.”
“We’re very pleased [with the decision],” said society president Kristy Kilpatrick.
She said details are being formulated so it is too early to say how many deer might be targeted for vaccination.
“I think the most important aspect of the motion [Monday] night was that we are now able to undertake a deer management program under the provincial definition of a research project, and that this is potentially going to provide another tool for communities who engage in urban deer reduction to do it in a humane, non-lethal way,” Kilpatrick said in an email.
The deadline for the application is Nov. 22.
The last-minute motion for the deer plan was brought forward by Coun. Tara Ney.
Created in 2015, the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society includes current and former educators, retired biologists, civil servants and working professionals. It has been lobbying for a science-based alternative to killing deer and favours controlling deer numbers through the use of SpayVac, a contraceptive vaccine.
A survey of Oak Bay residents found that deer were top of mind for many Oak Bay residents. “We saw the results of the survey were quite clear that people felt that there was an overpopulation of deer in Oak Bay,” Jensen said.
Typically, through a deer contraception program deer would be trapped in a modified clover trap. The does would be tagged, inoculated and released.
In 2015 Oak Bay sparked a wave of protests when it conducted a deer cull. Only 11 deer were killed over a 16-day period.
Jensen said when it was examining its options for deer control two years ago it was told by the province that contraceptive control was not an option and would not be approved.
“We were also told that there was no serum available in Canada at that time. So we didn’t have that as an option for consideration at that time,” Jensen said. “My position all along is we need to reduce the herd. Full stop.
“Again, that was something we saw in the results of the survey and if this is successful then it will meet that objective,” he said.
The matter will be back before councillors Monday to finalize details, Jensen said.
Jensen said there’s no question the number of deer is on the rise. Eight years ago, vehicle collisions involving deer were rare in Oak Bay. This year the municipality is on track to haul away 50 deer carcasses, he said.

Friday, October 7, 2016

'They shot them all'

The waters of wildlife management and protection are so muddy even provincial employees and directors don't know where responsibilities lie in decision-making processes. Email them about responsibilities and/or accountability and you will be as confused as they are. Add wildlife as agricultural animals to the confusion, and you see a recipe for disaster.

On Thursday, October 6, 2016 twenty seven deer were gunned down on a deer farm in Vernon, BC. The wildlife veterinarian for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations ordered the killings, saying “As far as the animals are concerned, the case is closed.” Ms Schwantje “who works with a number of government ministries” is a consultant with the Ministry of Agriculture when that ministry has no clear guidelines.

Wildlife as agricultural animals are in a dangerous position while Ministeries shuffle responsibility. The result on October 6 was the mass slaughter of 27 animals by gunfire.

Kate Bouey - Oct 7, 2016 / 9:15 am

An Enderby farmer is blasting the “heavy handedness” of government for shooting dead almost all of the deer on his property, Thursday. A ministry veterinarian confirmed the action.
“It was a circus here,” said Richard Yntema of Valley Wide Meats, who owns Rivers Bend fallow deer farm. “What they did was total cruelty.
“They thought they could use tranquillizer guns, but they got tired and they blasted away. I lost track after 75 rounds were fired."
Yntema said the officials included members of the B.C. Conservation Officers Service and the ministries of Environment and Forests, Lands and Natural Resources.
The farmer admitted he had failed to comply with regulatory issues under the Game Farm Act.
Yntema said he believes the main issue has been old trees falling on fences that allowed some deer to escape onto neighbouring properties.
“Certain ministries allowed my neighbours to shoot them at will. I don't know which ministries,” Yntema said.
He points directly at officials from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources for Thursday's slaughter.
“They ran out of ammunition and then asked the Conservation Officers Service if they could use theirs,” Yntema said.
“It was basically a police lockdown. They harrassed my customers and put a checkpoint on my driveway.
“They drove over my crops, damaged fences and some pipes. I'm told I can file a claim for compensation, but I have no idea who to talk to.”
A B.C. government wildlife veterinarian confirmed that 27 deer were shot by officials yesterday while two females were successfully removed alive.
"This farmer used to have a permit under the Game Farm Act for holding fallow deer but ownership has reverted under the Wildlife Act," said Helen Schwantje, who works with a number of government ministries. "Conservation officers were mandated to enforce the act and went in with a warrant."
Biologists and officials from Ministry of Agriculture were also present with the job of removing the deer, Schwantje said.
“Our concern was that these animals would escape and set up a population in the area and damage the habitat. We wanted to make sure we dealt with it before it got any worse.”
Schwantje said capturing any deer is an “incredible challenge” and fallow deer are extremely skittish.
While the goal had been to capture the animals alive with anesthetic darts, only two females were successfully tranquilized and removed while 27 others were shot dead, she confirmed.
“There was no way to herd them safely onto a trailer. We were really stuck.”
The farmer had been given opportunities to remove the animals to a licenced establishment, Schwantje said.
“Unfortunately this man has not been in compliance” with the regulations, she said, adding that the deer had been allowed to escape and there had been complaints from neighbours and some habitat damage.
As far as the animals are concerned, the case is closed, said Schwantje.
She said any charges against the farmer would come from the Ministry of Agriculture or the Conservation Officers Service.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

A Leading Survey from Oak Bay

Oak Bay conducted a Satisfaction and Priorities telephone survey of 400 residents recently, followed up by an online survey, now available until October 21, 2016.

Buried in the online Satifaction and Priorities Survey's many questions regarding parking and recreational opportunities are one to three questions concerning urban deer.  Answering “no” to the question “Do you feel there is an overpopulation of deer in the District of Oak Bay?” will take you to questions concerned with other topics.  

Answering “yes” will bring up this window:

Answer “strongly support” (or possibly any other multiple choice answer; our researcher did not attempt other answers) and you will receive this window:

In contrast, volunteers began delivery of a Deer Activity survey on October 1, 2016 to 1,100 households for the city of Esquimalt. Developed by an independent consultant, the 24 question survey “will help determine the extent of deer activity in the community, and residents' perceptions and attitudes regarding deer.”

The Esquimalt survey may be returned via postage-paid envelope, or online using a unique number on each paper version delivered to households, ensuring that the survey may only be taken once, and only by Esquimalt residents.

Results are scheduled to be presented to council at their December 12, 2016 Committee of the Whole meeting.