For deer like this one crossing Henderson Road

Province won’t fund Greater Victoria deer management plan

“No financial resources would be available” from the Ministry of Environment to support a deer management plan

Not one penny. That’s how much financial support the Capital Regional District can expect from the province to help tackle problems with the region’s burgeoning deer population.

A report to be presented to the CRD’s planning, transportation and protective services committee tomorrow (Oct. 27) states that “no financial resources would be available” from the Ministry of Environment to support a deer management plan.

“I believe it has to be a multi-pronged approach. I see the province, ICBC and ourselves – as the Capital Region – implementing probably a three-stage solution,” said Oak Bay Mayor Christopher Causton, chair of the CRD parks committee.

The first stage would involve an education campaign and stricter bylaws around feeding animals. The second would be tranquilization and relocation of deer and the third would be a selective cull.

“The municipalities have to agree to a plan and then the province needs to indicate they’re taking this seriously now. It can’t go on exploding.”

The issue around deer management resurfaced at last month’s Union of B.C. Municipalities convention where Causton chaired a panel meeting on the subject.

Municipalities and regional governments can look to Cranbrook, which recently implemented a strategy to reduce its deer population, Causton said.

The CRD report doesn’t offer suggestions for managing the deer. It includes one recommendation: to prepare terms of reference for a plan and seek out funding partners.

Causton’s hope that ICBC will get involved stems from the increasing number of car-deer collisions.

The report says the number of crashes has increased by an average of 13 per cent each year since 2000.

“Between 1997 and 2007 animal-related insurance claims in BC have increased from $15.8 million to $30.8 million,” reads the report.

Sean Pendergast, a wildlife biologist with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, says Cranbrook’s “community-owned management plan” is an effective approach to alleviating the issue.

“They put it to the community to say: ‘These are our options, what would you prefer we do? Something needs to be done,’” he said.

Greater Victoria’s issues, he said, are the result of urban spread.

“We’ve done a very good job in our urban and rural areas of eliminating all predators – cougars and wolves – so the deer numbers are able to increase unencumbered,” Pendergast said. “And hunting is becoming less acceptable, even legal hunting practices, so really the only predator they have these days is automobiles.”

As a wildlife biologist, he says relocation isn’t in the best interest of the animals. It puts them at a huge disadvantage, survival-wise, being in a brand new environment. “But quite often (relocation is) a public desire before even mentioning a cull.”

Also included in the CRD report are the results of a call for public input on deer-related issues.

More than half of the 389 submissions received were property damage complaints.

The province is willing to provide staff support through the planning process and will agree to lend equipment – clover traps, net guns, tranquilizers – during the implementation.

“I think we’ve lit a bit of a fire under the CRD – things are moving along,” Causton said, acknowledging that he first asked regional staff to look at a management plan a year ago.

“We’ve got to step up from what we’ve got now, which is nothing.”

kslavin@saanichnews.com

By the numbers

• 86,000 Columbia  deer live on Vancouver Island

• 75 per cent of the province’s blacktail population is on Vancouver Island

• 324 deer fatalities were reported to the Ministry of Transportation last year as a result of animals being hit by cars

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