CRD Directors Vote to Leave Deer Management to Municipalities

Capital Regional District directors agreed Wednesday the CRD should take only a limited role in deer management.

And some directors encouraged representatives of a citizens group looking to sterilize urban deer — rather than see them culled — to formally apply for CRD funding.

Members of the planning, transportation and protective services committee agreed with staff recommendations that the CRD not start a new service to manage deer and instead limit its role to sharing lessons learned from a pilot deer-management program conducted over the past two years.

Prior to committee discussions, representatives of the newly formed Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society talked of their plans to capture, tag and release deer in Oak Bay and to sterilize 25 does with the contraceptive vaccine SpayVac.

They asked the CRD for $35,000 in funding but were told they would have to make a formal application to the board. Society president Bryan Gates said Oak Bay agreed this week to contribute $5,000 to the sterilization pilot program in that community.

“We will trap, vaccinate, tag and release all deer. Both males and females will be caught and tagged but only females, of course, will be vaccinated,” Gates said.

“Another goal is long-term effectiveness.” The group also wants to collect information on population sizes, makeup and trends, habitat use and movement, he said.

Metchosin Mayor John Ranns, said that, as a farmer, he’s tried everything from shooting to fencing to deal with deer and the SpayVac pilot seems like it might work.

“In terms of the urban environment, which is entirely different from the rural environment, I believe this is a very good pilot project,” Ranns said. “I think, from my experience in living with deer on a day-to-day basis, that that probably has the best chance of success of anything I’ve seen other than fencing.”

Saanich Coun. Vic Derman supported the plan to gather information.

“I would agree if we are going to intelligently attempt to manage deer, we absolutely have to start out with being able to survey, identify and enumerate the population and then track what happens to that population over time,” Derman said.

“Once you have identified the population and are able to track it, then you can evaluate the success of any attempts to manage that population.”

CRD staff say no municipality has approached the regional district asking it to take an ongoing role in deer management, and many of the tasks associated with deer management — such as determining deer management options, selecting trap sites and managing contracts — can be undertaken only by municipalities.

Since 2013, the CRD and Oak Bay have spent a combined $270,000 for two deer-management pilot projects — one in Central Saanich and one in Oak Bay.

Oak Bay has conducted a cull, which prompted protests and saw 11 deer killed over 16 days. Traps were set up on private property and the deer were killed with a bolt gun. First Nations were offered the killed deer.

In the rural pilot project, 16 farms were visited by the CRD for crop-damage inspection. Staff provided information on fencing, municipal permits, firearms licences and use of scaring and hazing tactics. The CRD did not say how many rural deer were culled.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com