Taking advantage of nature’s salad bar, a deer browses among flowers growing on a hillside on Dallas Road, just below the Ross Bay Cemetery on a spring afternoon. The City of Victoria will be looking at ways to potentially fund a deer count. Victoria News file photo

Victoria eyes its own deer population count

Report suggests deer-human conflicts are on the rise

With the number of conflicts between deer and residents on the rise in the Capital Region, Victoria is hoping to learn exactly how many deer are roaming local neighbourhoods.

City staff will look for ways to fund a deer count this year, with help from the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society, as the first step towards creating a deer management strategy – something the city doesn’t currently have.

“Before anyone considers contraception or culling [deer], the first thing is really understanding the problem,” said Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe during a committee of the whole meeting Thursday. “Do we have 30 deer in Fairfield or are we seeing the same deer all the time? We need to do a proper population count to really understand the level of concern.”

RELATED: Esquimalt council exploring options for deer count following survey

According to a staff report, the city only has anecdotal information about conflicts between deer and humans, such as when the animals eat landscape and garden vegetation, leave droppings in yards or collide with motorists. But studies by the province and the CRD suggest they’re on the rise in the region.

Despite the fact deer management is a provincial issue (the B.C. Liberal government allocated $100,000 to five municipalities across the province for conflict/population reduction measures), Victoria councillors agreed something must be done from a municipal and regional level.

“Deer don’t pay attention to the borders, even less so than the residents do. That means, if we’re counting deer in the Gonzales neighbourhood, it must be in partnership with the CRD so we can track deer throughout municipalities,” said Coun. Jeremy Loveday.

Coun. Chris Coleman conducted a personal survey where he called 649 households, asking about sewage treatment in the region, 40 kilometre/hour speed zones and a deer management strategy. Seventy per cent said the city needs a plan to manage deer, even if it involves a cull; 23 per cent said a strategy is not needed and roughly seven per cent were neutral on the topic.

Coleman noted the sense of frustration surrounding deer on social media is building, but was quick to note many residents wouldn’t support a cull.

Victoria isn’t the only municipality dealing with deer problems. Central Saanich and Oak Bay have undertaken deer management initiatives, with funding from the CRD and the province. In December, a Township of Esquimalt survey revealed many residents were willing to pay higher taxes to fund a deer management program.

According to ICBC, there were 77 crashes in Victoria in 2012 that involved deer and 82 in 2013. More recent data was not available to councillors.

kendra.wong@vicnews.com

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