Urban wildlife focus of upcoming workshop

Oak Bay, Saanich seek direction on how to handle deer problem

For the second year in a row, the Union of British Columbia Municipalities is planning to address the issue of urban wildlife management at its annual convention.

The topic has resurfaced, in part, due to complaints from Oak Bay residents, including Coun. John Herbert, about the encroachment of deer into the community, and frustration at the confusion over who bears responsibility for the management of nuisance wildlife.

In response, the UBCM has scheduled a workshop at the convention which will focus on the management challenges, policies, solutions and responsibilities of various parties with respect to urban wildlife.

“There are jurisdictional issues,” said UBCM spokesperson Paul Taylor.

“While the responsibility for managing wildlife lies with the province, the greatest impact is in the individual communities. You’ve got taxpayers that are saying ‘we need some action’, so where do they go? They don’t go to the province. They go to their local governments.”

Oak Bay is the most recent municipality in Greater Victoria to request that the Capital Regional District create a regional management strategy to deal with deer. The CRD is in the midst of gathering data from conservation officers, law enforcement and ICBC to determine what, if any, steps to take.

They’ve also solicited public feedback to get an anecdotal snapshot of the impact deer have on urban life. But they’ve stopped short of committing to creating a deer management strategy.

Among the panelists at the UBCM workshop will be representatives from the City of Cranbrook, which has made significant progress with its deer problem. The hope is that other municipalities will be able to learn from their experience and begin working collaboratively with the province, rather than engaging in a jurisdictional battle.

“There’s still the mentality that it’s a provincial issue,” said Cranbrook spokesperson Chris Zettel. “But when we got to the point where we gave them the strategy and they said they’d meet us halfway, that was a big step forward. Suddenly the roadblock fell.”

Cranbrook’s plan includes culling some of the problem deer, capturing and relocating others, and allowing a perimeter hunt during regular hunting season. The city has also launched a public education campaign and is forming a permanent committee to manage the plan.

Oak Bay Mayor Christopher Causton, who will chair the workshop, would ideally like to see the CRD follow Cranbrook’s lead, but said his community can only wait so long for a solution.

“The CRD is being very slow on this, and in spite of pushing them, we’re not seeing the kind of action that residents in Oak Bay expect,” he said. “I’m leery of starting local, but unless we see some action from the CRD soon, we’re going to have to take some (steps) on our own.

“This is not about gardens, this is about safety,” he added. “It’s about wildlife being at large in unexpected places and causing potential danger to humans, especially children.”

editor@oakbaynews.com

Did you know?

• Most deer in the Capital Region are Columbian black-tail, a close relative of the mule deer.

• There are between 150,000 and 250,000 black-tailed deer living in B.C.

• Black-tailed deer typically travel alone or in small groups.

• Females generally give birth to two fawns each year.

Source: B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations

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