absence of natural predators in the provincial capital that eco-sensitive Victoria residents are urging local politicians to endorse a deer-control program to capture and kill hundreds of the four-legged interlopers.
Dan’s Farm and Country Market on Oldfield Road. “Something definitely has to be
done as soon as possible because it’s only getting worse. Out where I live,
there’s dead deer on the side of the road all the time.”
According to a recent report from the Capital Regional District, foraging
deer cost local farmers about $300,000 in 2009, not including the thousands of
dollars each year Mr. Ponchet and other farmers spend on deer-proof fences.
The report also said the number of deer-related automobile collisions in
Greater Victoria has tripled in the past decade to more than 100 from 35, and
noted that animal-related insurance claims province-wide increased to
$30.8-million from $15.8-million between 1997 and 2007.
At three cases per 100,000 people, the Capital Region has the province’s
second-highest incidence of Lyme disease, a rare but debilitating condition that
can be transmitted by ticks that live on deer, the report noted.
After media reports about the deer problem earlier this year, the CRD
received more than 400 letters of complaint from residents.
But, while experts say a deer cull would be the most cost-effective solution,
it’s a time-consuming and controversial option requiring public consultation, a
formal “deer management plan” and provincial approval.
Saanich mayor and CRD board member Frank Leonard said it’s unclear how much
public support there would be for a deer cull in Greater Victoria.
“I think it’s too early to say if that’s going to be the outcome,” Mr.
Leonard said. “I really don’t know if this community is up to it.”
The Town of Cranbrook started work on a deer cull initiative in 2010 in
response several bizarre incidents involving aggressive deer, the first
municipally supported program of its kind in the province.
Supported by 66 per cent of residents, the Cranbrook cull is due to receive a
permit from the Ministry of Forest Lands and Natural Resource Operations in the
next few weeks, said ministry wildlife biologist Jeff Morgan, adding that
Kimberley and Grand Forks have also applied for deer cull permits.
Other solutions include fertility control and relocating urban deer to the
wild, options that would cost twice as much and likely prove less effective than
a cull, he said.
There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that deer populations are exploding in
B.C., but little scientific data, since the Ministry of Environment does not
keep deer population statistics, said University of British Columbia zoologist
“But I think it’s quite a safe assumption simply because more people are
raising it as an issue,” Dr. Arcese said. “It’s a well-documented problem across
Based on average densities per square kilometre, biologists estimate that 75
per cent of the province’s 115,000 black-tailed deer live on Vancouver Island.
However, Mr. Morgan said there are no historical numbers to which those figures
can be compared.
Critics often attribute the problem to human encroachment on deer habitat,
but the reality is that most urban deer are born and raised in the city, often
living their entire lives in “home ranges” as small as 40 square hectares, he
Greater Victoria, with its ample urban parkland and mild climate, is
particularly well-suited to supporting large deer populations. However, experts
aren’t sure why the population has exploded over the past decade “relative to
what occurred 30 years ago,” Mr. Morgan said
Contributing factors may include a drop in the number of natural predators,
particularly cougars, changing social attitudes toward hunting, bylaws banning
off-leash dogs and reduced winter kill due to milder weather, Dr. Arcese
“Deer are quite adept at figuring out where they’re safe, and urbanization
has created more safe zones for them,” he said.
Murray Fyfe, medical health officer for the Vancouver Island Health
Authority, said it’s “highly unlikely” that the deer population is putting
humans at greater risk of contracting Lyme disease.
CRD staff estimated the cost of developing a deer management plan at
$225,000, money that would have to come from local government coffers, B.C.
Environment Minister Terry Lake said last week.
“These urban deer problems are all over the province, and we simply don’t
have the necessary resources to manage each one of them,” Mr. Lake said.
Insurance Corporation of British Columbia spokeswoman Kathy Taylor said ICBC
is concerned about the rising cost of animal-related collisions in B.C., but
added that “it’s far too early” to consider putting money toward a deer cull
program in the capital region.”
Special to The Globe and Mail