Bye-bye Bambi

Oak Bay council catches deer in its headlights

Christopher Sun

News staff

Oak Bay will spend $12,500 to trap and kill 25 deer, which will then be butchered for meat.

On Tuesday, council voted to confirm Oak Bay’s participation in the Capital Regional Districts’s deer management pilot project, outlined in a 51-page report from August.

Oak Bay is the first municipality in the CRD to formally join the urban part of the program. View Royal has expressed interest and Esquimalt said it will join if three-quarters of member municipalities also join. Central Saanich has already signed on to the rural version of the pilot project.

Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen said something needs to be done as the number of deer deaths has increased from zero in Oak Bay six years ago to 33 so far this year. Last year, 23 were killed, usually after being struck by a vehicle.

“The number of deer killed on roads and in backyards is increasing and those deaths are inhumane and we can’t let that continue,” Jensen said. “In a number of occasions the deer have been so badly injured by car or by hopping a fence and not making it that the police needed to come and put the deer down, which is not humane.”

Jensen noted the Songhees First Nation’s involvement is an important aspect to the cull. They will take the meat, along with antlers and hooves for ceremonial purposes.

Coun. Carine Green was the lone councillor voting against the motion. Three options were presented to council. Option one was to not participate in the CRD pilot project. Option two, which council passed, has Oak Bay participating in the project in accordance to the terms of reference in the report. Option three was the same as option two, but with a caveat that participation is “subject to any additional requests or conditions that council may ask the CRD to consider.”

Green wanted option three.

“I just felt it would allow more flexibility, allow Oak Bay greater ongoing input,” Green said, adding she wanted that flexibility in writing. “I think it would add a bit more strength for local input and local influence.”

CRD project manager for deer management Jeff Weightman assured council that even though option two doesn’t explicitly indicate it, they are willing to take input and make changes throughout the pilot project, which runs until January 2015.

In B.C.’s interior, Kimberly and Cranbrook have each been given permission from the province to cull 25 deer. In a non-binding referendum held Nov. 2, the town of Invermere voted in favour of a deer cull.

“That number is what we anticipate because a precedent was set in other places in B.C.,” Weightman said. “Typically the number to begin with is 25.”

After the first cull, deer activity will be monitored and results will dictate if there will be more.”

Council also discussed other options that did not involve a cull, such relocating the animals, but Weightman said that is not a viable option.

“Deer don’t travel well. There is a 50 to 60 per cent fatality rate,” Weightman said, adding provincial permits would be needed and applications by others have been rejected. “Deer are fight or flight animals. They will have a heart attack or break their neck from thrashing.”

Jensen explained he had been in talks with researchers wanting to explore using SpayVac, a contraceptive vaccine, but stumbling blocks include lack of funding and the need for both provincial and federal approval. He indicated the vaccine would be a more long-term solution.

The CRD will now apply for the necessary permits and hire a contractor to do the cull. Once that is in place, the cull could start immediately.