Police in Saanich, Oak Bay and Victoria shot a combined 62 deer last year that were found severely injured.
That’s nearly five times the total number of deer culled during Oak Bay’s 2015 program that killed 11.
And it’s only a small portion of the 394 dead deer that Oak Bay, Saanich and Victoria city crews collected and disposed of in 2018.
The number of dead deer is at least that, said Saanich Police Sgt. Chris Horsley, as these reflect the 325 deer collected by Saanich Pound and not the additional ones public works crews disposed of when all four pound officers were off duty.
It’s a number on the incline across the region. Some municipalities say dealing with the ballooning urban deer population is the province’s problem.
Saanich and Victoria are among them, at least in seeking a regional solution funded by the province. There is no official plan to tackle the deer population at this time.
Others, such as Oak Bay, are tired of waiting. In 2015 Oak Bay famously attempted the cull which proved controversial and problematic (with so much food around, deer weren’t interested in entering the live traps).
Pushed by citizen support, Oak Bay never gave up. This week the Oak Bay-endorsed Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society completed its first year of the deer contraception program, which has proved more acceptable. UWSS’ vet inoculated 60 of 77 tagged and identified does to prevent them from breeding for one year. The other 17 are tracked with GPS collars but were not administered the contraceptive as part of a control group.
On Monday, Oak Bay council approved a grant application to the province’s Urban Deer Cost-Share Program for $42,366. Oak Bay will match the funds.
“The money is fine as long as it is effective, in Oak Bay lots of people are spending $15,000 to $20,000 just to deer proof [one yard],” said Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch.
Oak Bay Coun. Hazel Braithwaite was the only vote against the grant application, saying it should be the province’s responsibility.
Braithwaite believes the growing deer populations are out of control and doesn’t trust the UWSS numbers, which estimate between 72 and 128 adult deer in Oak Bay this year (not including 2019 fawns).
“We should have looked at a round-up and relocation of the deer a couple of years ago,” Braithwaite said. “It would have helped, as opposed to not doing anything. We keep on putting this money in our budget and each year they come back asking for more money.”
Braithwaite also said Greater Victoria is still culling the deer.
“Right now we are basically doing a cull, but we are using cars,” Braithwaite said. “We’ve had lots of letters to council about [deer concerns]. People are scared.”
One dad wrote to council that he was driving with his family when they arrived at the scene of a police officer using a gun to euthanize an injured deer on the road.
So, while we might be “using cars” to cull, it appears guns are often needed to finish the job. Oak Bay Police have already shot 10 this year.
Last year Oak Bay Police shot 10 of the 55 deer that public works ended up disposing of. Sixteen of those were euthanized due to injury. As of Oct. 25, Oak Bay Public Works has collected 52 deer in 2019, a number that’s likely to surpass 2018’s total. The numbers have increased every year since they started tracking them in 2015, with 48 in 2017, 43 in 2016 and 42 in 2015.
Victoria city crews picked up 26 deceased deer already this year, up from 14 deer in 2018, and Victoria Police have also euthanized seven injured deer in 2019, and 14 last year.
Neither ICBC, Saanich police or the Oak Bay police have the exact numbers of motor vehicle collisions with deer (ICBC lumps all animal collisions together).
Oak Bay Police Department has recorded the deer it’s shot, nine in 2015 and again in 2016, 10 in 2017, and 16 last year. In Saanich, 32 of 325 dead deer collected last year were euthanized.
A statement from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations said the province manages deer in the wild but that urban deer are primarily managed by municipalities.
“The province encourages local governments to develop detailed deer management plans that are best suited to local communities,” it said.
The problem is a catch-22, Murdoch said.
“No municipality has deer expertise on staff. We don’t have expertise, so we can’t make a plan, but how do we get the expertise without a plan?”
The goal is to get the province to fund a regional program. In the province’s defence to criticisms that the $100,000 in grants made available through the Urban Deer Cost Share program is too little, Murdoch noted it would likely increase if more municipalities applied for grants.
“The first step is to get a meeting with the ministry, and that hasn’t happened yet,” Murdoch said. “It will take some political will from the province.”
Currently Esquimalt has expressed the most interest in joining Oak Bay and are leading the efforts to meet with the province.