In September and October, up to 100 deer in Esquimalt will be vaccinated with immunocontraceptive. Sandra Frey photo

Management program underway for Esquimalt’s urban deer

Esquimalt residents will soon see local deer sporting a little bling, as up to 100 does are vaccinated with an immunocontraceptive.

With the program getting underway this past month, the field team, led by Dr. Adam Hering, collared 20 control deer in August, with help from students from the University of Victoria ACME Lab (Applied Conservation Macro Ecology).

This fall 2021 they’ll administer the immunocontraceptive vaccine so that approximately 75 per cent of the estimated population of female deer in Esquimalt – based on previous road survey studies – will receive the contraceptive. Black collars with yellow tags will identify control deer and black collars only are those that have received the vaccine.

The measures are the next step in the community’s efforts to balance urban wildlife and their interaction with residents.

“We’ll be out from the start of September to the end of October, capturing up to 100 deer as our experimental group,” explains Karina Lamy, project manager for Esquimalt. “In fall 2023, we’ll be out again to give these 100 marked deer their booster IC-vaccines.”

“While the research permit allows for treatment of up to 100 deer, the final number might be less depending on the actual number of adult female black-tailed deer accessible in the study area,” adds Sandra Frey, project manager for Oak Bay. 

The team is working in partnership with the Township of Esquimalt, who are hosting the capture permission survey, which residents fill out to grant the team permission to conduct deer captures on their properties, Lamy notes.

In addition to the collaring, the team is also installing a camera array around Esquimalt that will help monitor deer movement.

The initiative follows several years of initial research, including a three-year population study conducted by the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society, which informed the management plan. During that time, Oak Bay, with the UWSS, has also undertaken its own provincially approved immunocontraceptive program, inoculating 120 female deer in 2019 and 2020, with more boosters planned for this fall.

Following Esquimalt’s survey of deer numbers, the province has provided permits to let the community run its own study, with research led by Dr. Jason Fisher, also the lead scientist for Oak Bay’s research program.

The study will help determine how many deer need to be given contraceptives to manage the urban population and how often they need to receive booster vaccines.

Fawning season cautions

As Esquimalt moves forward in its deer management plan, residents are urged to continue being mindful of urban deer, especially as young fawns start wandering further afield. Not only can they behave unpredictably, but they’ll be less attuned to the potential dangers of fast-moving bicycles and vehicles.

Drivers and cyclists are urged to slow down and scan ahead, especially at dusk and dawn, when deer tend to be more active, notes Kristy Kilpatrick, of the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society, which is working with the Township of Esquimalt on deer management, in addition to undertaking the research and contraception program in Oak Bay.

For more tips about living with urban deer, visit uwss.ca. Follow along with Esquimalt’s study at esquimalt.ca/urbandeer

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