Oak Bay has permission from the province to conduct an experimental attempt at deer population management using birth control, a move that Esquimalt would like to follow. (Keri Coles/News Staff)

Esquimalt considers birth control for its deer population

Esquimalt hopes to follow Oak Bay’s actions in inoculating deer

The Township of Esquimalt is interested in following suit with the District of Oak Bay in pursuing birth control for its deer population.

An upcoming motion put forward by Coun. Ken Armour advocates that the Township seek provincial approval to develop a plan and work with the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society (UWSS) to create an immuno-contraception strategy to manage and reduce the deer population in Esquimalt.

Wildlife management is the responsibility of the provincial government, which currently only uses culling or translocation to manage deer. The District of Oak Bay’s immuno-contraception approach is being done on a research basis, following several reports of high deer populations and little success with other methods.

In 2015 Oak Bay had permission to try a culling strategy which proved ineffective.

ALSO READ: Study moves Oak Bay closer to contraceptive control for problem deer

“The problem with culling is it’s certainly not considered humane, and not considered effective,” Armour said. “The population will expand, both from more fawns, and more deer moving in to fill the void.”

The province has also used translocation in more rural environments, but this method would not be helpful for an urban deer population.

The District of Oak Bay already has permission to inoculate 80 does with contraceptives this summer, after surveys and reports found the district’s deer population to be between 78 and 128 black tail deer.

ALSO READ: Confrontation with deer sends cyclist to hospital in Oak Bay

Two recent surveys – each costing $18,000– have been conducted by the Township of Esquimalt, the Department of National Defence (DND) and the UWSS, and found that the Township has around 135 deer while the CFB Esquimalt has around 60.

From these surveys it’s been found that 52 per cent of Esquimalt residents have spent money to prevent deer damage to their property, and 13 per cent have encountered aggressive behaviour from deer.

A third survey will be conducted next year to forward to the province to justify another round of immuno-contraception research.

ALSO READ: Oak Bay officers deal with deer impaled on fence

While costs are too early to finalize, Oak Bay has spent $35,000 to fund the research, and the province has funded $35,000 for the inoculations.

Armour said that whichever method ends up being used, it needs to be a region-wide effort to avoid deer populations from simply filling voids in neighbouring areas.

“We want to stop their growth and launch into a gradual reduction,” Armour said. “We will reach out to the province and to neighbouring municipalites and the CRD.”

The motion will come to the next council meeting on March 18. Should it be approved, any inoculation likely wouldn’t happen until 2020.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

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