Bill Cleverley / Times Colonist
JUNE 25, 2017 06:00 AM
A deer hangs out in Victoria's Rockland neighbourhood. Photograph By BRUCE STOTESBURY, Times Colonist
Victoria councillors will decide next month whether the city should get involved in the contentious issue of deer management.
Anecdotal evidence of a growing urban deer population in the capital region includes an increased number of reports of car crashes involving deer.
Saanich police warned residents walking dogs to take caution after people were chased by deer aggressively protecting their fawns. Sightings of deer brazenly grazing their way through residential neighbourhoods are common.
But Victoria city staff say it’s difficult to determine the true extent of the deer situation.
A report to be considered by council in July notes that the city receives occasional complaints from residents. It also says the city has “tools” it could use to determine the extent of the problem in order to develop appropriate solutions.
These tools include population counts, public opinion surveys, public education campaigns, and community advisory committees.
Coun. Chris Coleman says the city will have to wrestle with the deer issue. “I think there are increasing interactions between a growing population of deer, or at least a perceived-to-be growing population of deer, … and a whole bunch of people.”
Three years ago, Coleman conducted a phone survey of 649 Victoria households on a variety of issues, including urban deer and the possibility of a cull.
“I had about a 35 per cent response rate,” he said. “On the deer issue, 69.2 of the respondents said we should have a deer management plan even if it includes a cull. Something like 23 per cent said not on your Nelly, and 7.4 per cent were antiseptic on the issue or had no opinion.”
Seventy per cent of people who responded to an Oak Bay survey last year said the municipality has an over-population of deer, and said they would likely support a tax increase to reduce it.
An attempted cull in Oak Bay in 2015 saw 11 deer killed in two weeks, but created a rift in the community and sparked protests by the B.C. SPCA and animal-rights activists.
Oak Bay’s latest effort at deer management involves a $40,000 project to outfit 20 deer with GPS tracking collars, and to install 40 motion sensor cameras to photograph the animals as they wander its trails. The program, funded jointly by the municipality and the province, is the first phase of a plan to reduce the number of deer through the use of birth-control drugs.
Coleman agrees with a Capital Regional District report two years ago that said Greater Victoria municipalities will have to work together if they want a deer management program to work.
“We’re going to have to get on with it. That won’t make people happy,” he said.