Satellite collars are part of the ongoing research for the Oak Bay and Provincial urban deer management program.

Research will benefit Esquimalt

Collars and cameras provide essential info about urban deer

If you drive through the Oak Bay area, you might notice some deer sporting new neckwear lately … and that’s a good thing!

The satellite collars – a standard research tool for wildlife studies worldwide – are part of the ongoing research for the Oak Bay and Provincial urban deer management program, implemented by the science-based, non-profit Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society. Paired with photographic evidence, the GPS-enabled collars help track doe movement – vital for the next step in efforts to create a more manageable urban deer population.

“If you do anything without the appropriate research and knowing their movement patterns, it’s just a Band-Aid, not a solution,” says the UWSS’s Kristy Kilpatrick. “We’re hopeful all the permits will be in place this fall, before rutting season, to administer the first immuno-contraceptive, which will offer a long-term, cost-effective and humane way to gradually reduce and stabilize the deer population. This information will provide the province with a new tool to offer municipalities who after doing a proper science based community survey, ongoing public education through multiple channels, and multi-year deer counts, come to the conclusion they may need a deer reduction program. Esquimalt has demonstrated leadership in urban deer management by completing such a survey, they are doing ongoing public education, and they will be completing the second of three deer counts this fall.”

The Oak Bay study is funded by the Province of British Columbia, the Municipality of Oak Bay, and donations from UWSS supporters, and its methods have undergone rigorous review and meet regulations put in place by the Canadian Council on Animal Care and BC Fish and Wildlife. It is also endorsed by the BC SPCA.

Here’s how it works: This spring, 20 female deer received GPS collars, which twice daily for two years will transmit the doe’s location via satellite to researchers. The colour-coded reflective tags attached to the collars help mitigate night vehicle mortality and identify individuals at a distance, in person and by strategically placed wildlife field cameras. Taken together, this will create a population model, and provide important information on urban deer movement patterns and other important deer ecology that will inform not just Oak Bay, but Esquimalt, the region and beyond.

Avoid conflict with protective deer

As you stroll your neighbourhood or walk your dog, be aware that does will often act in a protective manner if you happen to be near a fawn – even if you can’t see the young animal. DO keep dogs leashed and walking near you, and DO NOT release the leash – to the deer, a dog (no matter what size or age) is a predator.

Try changing direction or your route or go back the way you came. And if a doe seems to be following you, she may simply be trying to confirm that you are moving away from a hidden fawn, Kilpatrick advises.

Slow down: While awareness is good advice while walking, it’s also important while driving: “Slow down and scan ahead,” advises Kilpatrick. Keep your eyes on high alert, especially in the early morning and at dusk when deer are more often active, or when they may be by the road side, and remember that deer are rarely alone – others may follow behind or dart into your path if they have been spooked. Young deer may not recognize vehicles as a threat, and regardless of age, headlights can confuse and cause deer to freeze or act unpredictably.

For more information about urban deer or to get a deer awareness sign to post in your community, contact UWSS today!

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