Sunday, June 28, 2015

Jack Knox: A voice from wilderness defends Oak Bay’s deer

 I have been reluctant to post this because it wasn't really about the deer, but a DeerSafe member wants it up on the blog.  For you, Roy.

Jack Knox / Times Colonist
January 23, 2015 09:09 PM

Kelly Carson works the bullhorn during an anti-deer cull protest in Oak Bay Village. Photograph By ADRIAN LAM, Times Colonist

The knock on opponents of Oak Bay’s urban-deer cull is that they themselves are urban animals — latté-sucking city dwellers with a Disneyfied view of nature.
Which, for the anti-cull crowd’s most familiar face, is as far from reality as the isolated lighthouses in which she grew up.
In fact, being raised amid more animals than people profoundly influenced DeerSafe founder Kelly Carson’s outlook.
Born in Vancouver, she was six when she moved to McInnes Island, 40 kilometres west of Bella Bella, with her younger brother, mother and lighthouse keeper stepfather.
“I remember the day we landed,” she says. “There was a blizzard. … We had to jump onto the rocks.” They weren’t dressed for the weather, so the fellow driving the boat gave each of the kids one of his mittens.
From the ravens who stole her toys to the mink in the garden, animals were her only companions, but no, it wasn’t Disney. She remembers sea lions scrambling onto the rocks to escape the orcas. One fell off. “The water turned red.”
Once, while peering into a tidal pool, she gave little thought to a pod of whales in the distance — until one shot over to check her out, suddenly looming up so close that its dorsal fin filled her vision before it silently sank away. “It didn’t occur to me until years later that I could have been lunch.”
When she was eight, another sea lion pulled onto the rocks, pursued by a commercial fishboat. A fisherman, brandishing a rifle, motioned to her to move out of the way of his shot. She refused. “I just stood there. I wasn’t going to leave.”
She was still eight when the family moved to Egg Island, 55 kilometres north of Port Hardy. It was her home for 11 years. Another family shared lightkeeping duties, but that was it for human contact. “There were never any kids our age.”
The family’s one-month annual leave was usually spent in Vancouver, but for a three-year stretch in her mid-teens Carson didn’t see civilization at all. Instead, vacations were spent boating around the coast.
It was at Bella Bella that she first saw “casual violence” against animals, kids having “drowning races” to get rid of unwanted kittens and puppies as directed by their parents. With no vet to spay and neuter pets and keep the dog population under control, the Mounties would periodically shoot those deemed to have turned feral.
When Carson finally hit the city, moving to Vancouver at age 19, it was culture shock. She couldn’t get used to being in a car, had never owned a television (still doesn’t), didn’t know what people were talking about much of the time. “I would talk about animals and birds, because that’s what I knew, but people’s eyes would glaze over, so I stopped talking about that.”
Carson was still 19 when she had her first child, the second arriving a couple of years later. She persuaded her husband to be a lightkeeper (“I said there would be no Hydro bills and no rent”) and headed for the station at Pachena Point on the west coast of Vancouver Island, soon followed by another at Cape Scott. Lots of mammals this time: bears, wolves, cougars. And deer, of course. When they wiped out her garden at Cape Scott, on the northern tip of the Island, it meant no fresh vegetables for a family whose only other source of food was a supply ship.
In the mid-1980s, when her eldest reached school age, the family moved to Victoria. Carson, who works for the government, has been here ever since.
She was part of the group that relocated more than 600 University of Victoria bunnies to Coombs in 2010. “That experience taught me that we’re not helpless. It taught me that if you organize, you can make a difference.”
When the killing of urban deer came up for debate, she founded DeerSafe, a group that has maybe 10 core members and 80 on the email list. Its members plan to observe, but not interfere, when Oak Bay traps and kills 25 urban deer. DeerSafe has collected more than 4,000 signatures on a petition, though it’s not always a pleasant experience. Even animal-lovers aren’t sold on her cause. “I’ll be standing on a corner and people will come within inches of my face and scream at me.”
She doesn’t enjoy that. Nor does she like speaking to crowds or using the bullhorn, but Carson — a vegan for nine years, vegetarian for 24 — keeps at it because she feels compelled to stand up for her beliefs. “I’m just trying to do no harm.”

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

How Pace Communications Assisted the Oak Bay Deer Cull

Hired by the Oak Bay council to help them justify to the public why deer should receive a bolt gun to the head, Pace Communications also worked very hard to ensure that the cull went smoothly, which included meetings with property owners who hosted traps, and the removal of a CHEK TV segment from the station's website; "media correction re: trap footage on CHEK" 

Managing public distress has the potential to find a niche should urban deer culls become an industry.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Council to hear about alternative to deer cull

posted May 28, 2015 at 12:00 PM
Oak Bay News

Oak Bay council plans to invite the newly created Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society to offer council a look at their project. They’ll set a date after seeing a written presentation from the local group that plans to capture, tag and vaccinate female deer in the area to prevent pregnancy.

“We have a wonderful local resource of literally world-renowned scientists,” said Coun. Eric Zhelka. “They are ready to share what they know.”

Coun. Kevin Murdoch said he’d prefer some written information ahead in order to ask pertinent questions and have an informed discussion.

With no active deer management project or plan currently underway, some council members wondered if the timing is right.

Zhelka agreed to Jensen’s suggestion that the society put forward some written information first before setting a date to have them make a presentation.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Oak Bay's Deer Cull Was a Good Deal More Than $16,000

Mayor Jensen recently insisted at a council meeting that the cost of the deer cull was only $16,000. He spoke to media shortly after the cull, naming Ron Kerr as the contractor who was paid, an amount which exceeds the terms of the Request for Proposal:

He also does not acknowledge that the cost of the deer count, undertaken in April 2014 (not June, as Mayor and staff are inexplicably claiming – for proof of the timeline, see the blog post from April 11, 2014) was a requirement for obtaining the permit to cull. That cost:

Update June 10, 2015: an FOI request by Liz White has revealed that the actual cost for Pace Group Communications - hired to make the cull more palatable to the public and to help with trap setup - was $7,537.68 (Invoice #003) and $5,145.00 (Invoice # 004). 

The CRD Budget Estimates for Oak Bay Deer Management Pilot Project implementation follows. Residents will not have access to the final budget breakdown, but this will help us to understand the costs that Oak Bay does not want to discuss.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Ask Oak Bay

Budget meetings in municipalities can be protracted, boring affairs that can go late into the night. The Oak Bay meeting of April 13, 2015 was all that, but there was one notable difference – this one convened to an in camera meeting at 9:35 pm. The topic? Animal, Pest Control. The budget? See for yourself.

I draw your attention to the 2015 budget for deer control. Mayor Jensen sought to increase the budget from $25,000 to $35,000. That may surprise no one, but the question for Oak Bay residents is this: why has all but $4,000 for 2015 been spent on deer control by March?

When a budget meeting goes in camera, that can mean that discussion could contain “information that is personal information about an identifiable individual who holds or is being considered for a position as an officer, employee or agent of the municipality or another position appointed by the municipality,” or “the acquistion, disposition or expropriation of land or improvements, if council considers that disclosure could resonably be expected to harm the interests of the municipality.”

Or it could mean “information that is prohibited, or information that if it were presented in a document would be prohibited from disclosure under Section 21 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.”

How did the municipality spend the entire budget of $35,000 for deer control, save for $4,000, by March 2015? We have questions. The answers are likely hidden under Section 21.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Focus of Deer Cull Prtotest Shifts to CRD

A DeerSafe Victoria rally Saturday ratifies the group’s commitment to stopping any proposed culls in the region.
The event was in anticipation of a report to the Capital Regional District on its deer management strategy, including the pilot cull project in Oak Bay last month.
“Now is the time, we feel, to bring this out to the public and say we know what you’re going to be doing behind our backs and we’re frustrated,” said Kelly Carson of DeerSafe Victoria. “The rally is often a good way to get them to pay attention when not all of us can take time off from work to speak to their meeting.”
Carson says they’ve used their allotted minutes to speak to municipal councils and the CRD’s Planning, Transportation and Protective Services Committee for the past three years, only to be ignored.
“It’s been utterly frustrating … We’ve been left using ‘public spectacles’,” Carson said.
In Oak Bay’s pilot project completed last month, a 16-day cull netted 11 deer. Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen called it a success, proving a cull could take place in an urban environment and mild temperate climate. The CRD’s deer management strategy, including the cull, will be reviewed with a report expected on the April 22 agenda for the CRD’s Planning, Transportation and Protective Services Committee.
“By then they’ve finished their exploration of this … with no feedback from those who are opposed. That’s how it’s been the last three years,” Carson said. “It’s extremely frustrating for us who don’t want to see this again in the fall.”
They selected Centennial Square in Victoria as a central location between the legislature (the province issues any licence to cull its wildlife) and Victoria City Hall, citing Mayor Lisa Helps’ prior statements that the city would participate in a cull.
Helps stands by that statement, particularly in light of the deer meat being distributed to local First Nations as was done in Oak Bay.
“Doing nothing is not an option. At the same time it’s not the responsibility of the city. The mandate would come through the CRD,” said Helps.
“Local First Nations have been hunting deer since before any of us arrived here, and if we can have a win-win where deer are used for food as they have been for time immemorial. … I fully support using a local food source to feed some of our most impoverished residents.”
Carson contends the cull process is inhumane.
“This is animal cruelty, we know it… sitting on a wild animal and putting a bolt gut to its head is cruel,” Carson said.
In Oak Bay a contractor used modified clover traps placed on private properties –  capturing and killing seven bucks and four does.
“As always, I’m open minded. If there are more humane ways to kill the deer then let’s hear them,” Helps said. “We can’t have people running around with rifles in Victoria. Urban hunting is an oxymoron.”
Carson said most municipalities have not demonstrated serious deer/human conflict mitigation efforts – required by the province before a cull can take place – such as public education, a public survey, signage and lowering speed limits in known wildlife crossing areas.
DeerSafe will continue “diligently following the individual municipalities,” Carson said. “We’ve got work ahead of us and we won’t be letting go of this.”

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Oak Bay deer need birth control, not death penalty group says

11 deer killed this year in cull

By All Points West, CBC News Posted: Apr 14, 2015 9:23 PM PT

A newly formed group called the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society wants to use birth control to reduce Oak Bay's deer population instead of the lethal cull that was done this year.

After this year's controversial deer cull in Oak Bay, a local group has stepped forward with a plan that involves giving female deer birth control.

In February, 11 deer were killed as part of the Capital Regional District's deer management pilot project.

A formal report is expected later this month, but now a newly formed group called the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society is advocating a non-lethal approach to keeping down the deer population.

The society's goal is to capture 25 to 50 deer in Oak Bay and administer what is called an immunocontraceptive, which creates antibodies and prevents deer from becoming pregnant.

"We put ear tags in, give them a shot in the bum and let them go," said Rich Page, a wildlife biologist with the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society.

Page says he's spoken to Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen about this issue numerous times over the past couple of years.

"We hope to demonstrate that this is feasible and hope they don't ever have to go back to a lethal cull again."

To move forward, the group needs a federal certificate from Health Canada which Page says can be a lengthy process and take up to six months.

Page estimates it costs about $500 to capture the deer and administer the vaccine. However, the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society wants to make this project a valid scientific study using graduate students who collect and analyze the data, escalating costs to around $1000 per deer.

The society's goal is to raise $50,000 by July. It hopes to be in the field capturing deer by August.