Loud and clear on urban deer

CRD gets big response to call for residents' input on growing issue

It’s been about three months since the Capital Regional District asked people for their opinions on the growing deer population on the South Island, and the response has been as wide-ranging as the animals themselves.

Amidst a growing number of complaints over the animals’ encroachment into urban areas, the CRD established an email account in August to solicit feedback from residents, with an eye toward creating a comprehensive deer management plan for the region.

Oak Bay Coun. John Herbert has been one of the most vocal proponents of a regional strategy. While he’s glad the CRD appears to be taking the issue seriously, he would like to see some action soon.

“I’m glad to see they’ve gotten started, but I think it’s moved slower than it needed to,” he said.

To date, the CRD has received nearly 400 submissions from across Greater Victoria. Although the rate has slowed considerably since the email address was first published in the News, the number continues to grow.

Though some respondents did not specify where they live, more than half of those who did are from either Oak Bay or Saanich. But feedback came from all over the Capital Region, with at least nine of the 13 CRD member municipalities represented.

“I consider the presence of deer in a very urban area to be inappropriate,” wrote Lorna Harris of Oak Bay. “With no predators, this problem is going to increase and become harder to resolve.”

Saanich’s Chris Ball agrees. “We are very much animal lovers and realize that the deer have nowhere to go, but something must be done about the large population before someone gets killed,” she wrote.

Submission topics have been equally varied (see sidebar for more). While many residents cited property damage as their primary concern, others mentioned road safety, deer aggression and health risks such as Lyme disease as support for a management plan.

Some even had their own proposals for solving the deer problem.

“Catch and kill 80 per cent of them, have them professionally butchered and give the meat to the Salvation Army to feed the poor,” wrote Al Patey of Saanich.

There have even been a small number of responses which the CRD categorized as “deer appreciation” –  individuals who oppose most of the popular solutions, including culls and live trapping.

“Man, with all his wisdom and technology, should be able to figure out a way to live in harmony with the deer, not to kill them,” wrote Sharon Palamarek of Colwood.

CRD staff plan to use the feedback to help draft a deer management plan, which will consider several factors.

Among them are the animals’ populations across the region, collision data and the resulting financial implications, relevant solutions from the CRD’s goose management plan, and control measures identified in the B.C. Ministry of Environment’s Urban Ungulate Conflict Analysis Report.

The report is expected early next year.

editor@oakbaynews.com

Some excerpts from residents’ comments received by the CRD on the deer issue:

“This urban area is no place for creatures that belong in the wild.” – Hugh Aitken, Oak Bay

“This neighbourhood is a favourite for dog walkers of all ages. I would hate to see a small child, or an elderly resident injured, or worse, by an angry deer.” – Judy Fox, Saanich

“We are so lucky to be so close to nature in our home. We have a large window in the kitchen and it is like living television to watch them wandering through.” – Edna Austin, Saanich

“They have been here for a couple of years but have never been this bold. … I am afraid one of these times they are going to hurt someone.” – June Cameron, Langford

“The deer problem is like the rabbit problem at UVic. They are cute animals with big eyes that have been Disneyfied so people who don’t have to deal with them can’t consider culling them.” – Andrea Jull, Saanich

“Lack of action merely creates a bigger problem which will ultimately require more drastic action.” – Martin Taylor, Oak Bay

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