Sunday, June 25, 2017

Victoria city council mulls foray into deer management

 / Times Colonist
JUNE 25, 2017 06:00 AM

A deer hangs out in Victoria's Rockland neighbourhood.   Photograph By BRUCE STOTESBURY, Times Colonist

Victoria councillors will decide next month whether the city should get involved in the contentious issue of deer management.
Anecdotal evidence of a growing urban deer population in the capital region includes an increased number of reports of car crashes involving deer.
Saanich police warned residents walking dogs to take caution after people were chased by deer aggressively protecting their fawns. Sightings of deer brazenly grazing their way through residential neighbourhoods are common.
But Victoria city staff say it’s difficult to determine the true extent of the deer situation.
A report to be considered by council in July notes that the city receives occasional complaints from residents. It also says the city has “tools” it could use to determine the extent of the problem in order to develop appropriate solutions.
These tools include population counts, public opinion surveys, public education campaigns, and community advisory committees.
Coun. Chris Coleman says the city will have to wrestle with the deer issue. “I think there are increasing interactions between a growing population of deer, or at least a perceived-to-be growing population of deer, … and a whole bunch of people.”
Three years ago, Coleman conducted a phone survey of 649 Victoria households on a variety of issues, including urban deer and the possibility of a cull.
“I had about a 35 per cent response rate,” he said. “On the deer issue, 69.2 of the respondents said we should have a deer management plan even if it includes a cull. Something like 23 per cent said not on your Nelly, and 7.4 per cent were antiseptic on the issue or had no opinion.”
Seventy per cent of people who responded to an Oak Bay survey last year said the municipality has an over-population of deer, and said they would likely support a tax increase to reduce it.
An attempted cull in Oak Bay in 2015 saw 11 deer killed in two weeks, but created a rift in the community and sparked protests by the B.C. SPCA and animal-rights activists.
Oak Bay’s latest effort at deer management involves a $40,000 project to outfit 20 deer with GPS tracking collars, and to install 40 motion sensor cameras to photograph the animals as they wander its trails. The program, funded jointly by the municipality and the province, is the first phase of a plan to reduce the number of deer through the use of birth-control drugs.
Coleman agrees with a Capital Regional District report two years ago that said Greater Victoria municipalities will have to work together if they want a deer management program to work.
“We’re going to have to get on with it. That won’t make people happy,” he said.

Friday, May 12, 2017

NDP Candidate Gerry Taft nailed for defamation

Supreme Court of BC Justice GC Weatherill has awarded Devin Kazakoff $75,000 in damages plus special costs in his defamation lawsuit against Invermere Mayor and BC NDP candidate Gerry Taft.

“The circumstances of the lawsuit have been very difficult for me,” Kazakoff said in a brief statement after he learned of Justice Weatherill’s 51-page decision.

“While I am obviously pleased lo have had my reputation vindicated by such an award and by the Court’s thorough reasons for judgment, I am also pleased to have this behind me now.”

Kazakoff, an Invermere resident, sued Taft for defamatory comments that Taft had made last year on the East Kootenay News Online Weekly website regarding a very controversial and divisive deer cull in Invermere.

In the readers’ comment section of a story about the controversy Taft wrote:
“Signed by the same Devon [sic] Kazzakof [sic] who was convicted of tampering with and destroying deer traps in Kimberley. I wouldn’t be so quick to believe convicted felons who have extreme positions on animal rights issues and who do not respect the decisions of democratically elected local governments doing what the majority of their constituents want.”
Gerry Taft January 13, 2016, at 6:29 pm

However, at no time had Kazakoff been convicted of a crime. He was arrested for vandalizing deer traps in Kimberley and charged with mischief. Here’s how this was described on pages 8 and 9 of Justice Weatherill’s decision:

“On March 30, 2015, the plaintiff pled guilty in Provincial Court to a single count of mischief under $5,000 in connection with the Kimberley incident. On April 1, 2015, he was sentenced and given a 30-day conditional discharge by the Honourable Judge R. Webb. The 30-day probationary condition imposed on the plaintiff was that he pay restitution of $735.50 to the City of Kimberley, $1,000 (joint and several with his accomplice) to the Ministry, and a victim fine surcharge of $1,040. The plaintiff paid all of those amounts the following day. Accordingly, his discharge became absolute on May 1, 2015 and, as a result, he does not have a criminal record.”

According to the judgment Taft explained his reaction this way:

“The defendant conceded on cross-examination that he only “skimmed” the e-know article at home while eating dinner and published his post a “minute or two later” based upon his “vague memory” of the plaintiff’s court proceeding nine months earlier. He further testified that, at the time of his post, he either had not known or had forgotten that the plaintiff had received a conditional discharge. His post was based simply on his recollection that the plaintiff “had been caught and had pled guilty to a crime and had been convicted”. He admitted on cross-examination that he had no idea as to the charge the plaintiff had pleaded guilty to.”

Justice Weatherill had some harsh things to say about Taft.

In the analysis portion of his decision, pages 27-30, he said he found Kazakoff to be genuine, honest and forthcoming manner. “I have no hesitation accepting his testimony in its entirety,” he wrote.

However, he had little good to say about Taft.

“[106] I find that I am unable to give the defendant’s evidence the same approbation. On non-controversial matters, he testified in a straightforward and forthright manner. However, when his conduct regarding the central issues in this action came to be examined, he became confrontational, argumentative, and often launched into campaign-style monologues in an effort to validate his actions. It was apparent that he viewed many of the questions put to him on cross-examination as an affront to his integrity.

“[107] I found the defendant’s evidence regarding his state of mind towards the plaintiff as well as his understanding of and motivation for the contents of his January 13, 2016 post to be overly rehearsed and disingenuous.

“[108] I do not accept as credible the defendant’s evidence regarding what he knew of the plaintiff’s April 2015 court proceeding at the time of his January 13, 2016 post. The defendant testified that he was certain he knew that the plaintiff had pleaded guilty but was uncertain as to whether he had heard what the sentence was. Yet, the defendant was intimately involved in the deer cull issue from the beginning. It was and had been the subject of significant debate for over three years at the time of the plaintiff’s court proceedings. The defendant’s evidence that he was too overwhelmed by work and sleep deprivation to have been interested in the outcome of those proceedings defies credulity. The wide-spread media coverage regarding the plaintiff having received a conditional discharge would not have escaped the defendant who was the spokesperson for the cull side of the debate and who had been so intimately involved in the issue. I find that the defendant was well aware of the outcome of the plaintiff’s court proceedings in April 2015, and was upset at the result which he perceived was far too lenient. He twice stated during his cross-examination that “many crimes in Canada don’t have a severe enough penalty”.

“[109] Moreover, I do not accept the defendant’s evidence as to his motivation for the January 13, 2016 post. The defendant’s purported sense of obligation as someone involved in the deer cull debate to enlighten the readers of the e-know article about the dangers of accepting as true what had been written in the Press Release and what was depicted in the Video simply does not pass scrutiny. The defendant admitted he had not seen the Video and that there was nothing inaccurate about the Press Release. Why would the defendant feel the need to caution the viewer about an article that was demonstrably true and a video that he had not seen? If the defendant’s motivation was truly to alert e-know’s readers to the other side of the deer cull debate as he claims, he would not have written the words he did.

“[110] I find that the e-know article was viewed by the defendant as an opportunity to vent his pent-up frustration at the plaintiff, who he perceived as a “criminal” and whose opposition to “the decisions of democratically elected local governments doing what the majority of their constituents want” had gone unpunished.

“[111] The defendant’s demeanour changed noticeably during his evidence regarding his having been unaware of the plaintiff’s January 14, 2016 Facebook message to him demanding an apology. He went to some length in an attempt to explain how difficult it was for him to find messages on his Facebook account from people who were not one of his Facebook “friends” because those messages are located in his Facebook message box designated “Other”. Given his long-time active use of Facebook, I do not accept as credible his incomprehensible and confused obfuscation in this regard. The oft quoted phrase from Hamlet came to mind while I listened to him: “the Lady doth protest too much, methinks”.

“[112] Moreover, it defies common sense that a social media-savvy politician like the defendant would have had no interest in reading messages received from “Other”.

“[113] The defendant testified that “if there’s something I wish to say, I say it”. I find that he did precisely that—he intended to attack the plaintiff’s character and integrity and chose his words deliberately.

 “[114] The question is: were those words defamatory of the plaintiff?”

This decision will almost certainly have an impact on the election in Columbia River-Revelstoke. The big question is how much damage will it do to Taft?

When contacted for comment Taft said he was disappointed by the ruling.

“I offered an early apology concerning this matter,” he said in an e-mail to The Revelstoke Current.

“I am disappointed by the judgement and disagree with much of it. I will be consulting with my lawyer about filing an appeal. For now, I am focussed on the election campaign and the issues that matter to the people of Columbia River Revelstoke.”

However, Doug Clovechok, his BC Liberal opponent in the election campaign says this raises serious questions about Taft’s judgment and character.

“The conviction is very clear,” he said. “And this guy wants to be our elected MLA? I think you need better judgment than that. The people of Columbia River-Revelstoke deserve an MLA with the highest integrity,  someone they can trust. And I’m working hard every single day to earn their support on May 9th.”

Voters go to the polls on May 9.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

New Independent Wildlife Group to Take Over BC Government Operations

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017 12:04pm

Kootenay-East MLA Bill Bennett says this is a massive step forward in wildlife management.

Making the announcement Wednesday morning, Bennett says local hunting, conservation, and wildlife groups will establish the framework for a new independent group.

They would essentially be responsible for managing animal populations in BC, which Bennett argues would be able to do the job much more effectively than the government.

"Government is afraid to manage wolves, for example, or afraid to mange grizzly bears in some cases because of the politics of that. Hopefully, an agency that is separate from government can make decisions that are in the best long-term interest of wildlife and just forget about the politics and do what is best for the animals."

More than a dozen local and regional wildlife officials attended Bennett's announcement, which was met with universally-high praise.

"I think it'll put more positive aspect into managing wildlife and getting away from the precautionary principles and get back to real numbers and managing wildlife the way it should be," says Past President of the BC Wildlife Federation Dave White.

White argues that the local wildlife groups simply have a deeper understanding of the local issues affecting animal populations, and therefore know what needs to be done to resolve them.

Few details are known about the makeup of this new group at this time, but Bennett says it will be funded with an initial $5 million from the government, with the $9-10 million from annual hunting license renewals making up the rest.

It will also be open to funds from outside groups that have an interest in wildlife.

"This is a funding model that needs to happen," says East Kootenay Wildlife Association President Jeff Berdusco. "Everybody needs to come to the table for the common goal of increasing wildlife populations across the province, not just in the East Kootenay. This is a necessary first step."

Following May's provincial election, the various local, regional, and provincial wildlife associations will meet to discuss what exactly the group would look like and how it would function.

Bennett hopes to launch the new agency sometime this fall.

- David Opinko

Friday, March 17, 2017

Oak Bay scores provincial funds to count deer

The Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations will issue Oak Bay $20,000 through its urban deer cost-share program, for the district to partner with the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society on a deer plan for the community.
— image credit: Christine van Reeuwyk/Oak Bay News

Oak Bay plans to embark on its deer plan as soon as the collars arrive which could take six weeks, according to the project manager.
“The first thing we need to do is capture 20 deer – bucks and does – and fit them with the GPS recording equipment,” said Steve Huxter, of the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society.
They ordered the collars as soon as funding through the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations funding came through March 16. Oak Bay will get $20,000 urban deer cost-share program, funding projects that focus on deer culls and research into other population control methods.
“I’m very pleased with the province providing the funds to assist the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society to lead a unique approach to managing the deer population and also trying to understand the behaviour of deer in our urban environment,” said Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen. “We’re certainly hopeful any resulting management strategies will respond to the concerns we’ve heard from residents that there is an overpopulation of deer in our neighbourhoods.”
In December, Oak Bay and UWSS learned Invermere, Grand Forks, Elkford and Cranbrook were approved for funding, while the ministry worked with Oak Bay to refine its proposal.
“We were able to satisfy all the questions they had,” Huxter said. “All the tweaks are in the research phase to make sure all we do satisfies their requirements for good science-based evidence.”
With the matching $20,000 from the municipality, UWSS will implement the first phase of its deer management project – to radio collar up to 20 deer and place motion-activated cameras on trails frequented by deer. Information collected would give the municipality a better understanding of deer densities, range, population dynamics and dispersal rates and inform future management decisions.
“We’re three months down the road from where we first started so that does set things back a bit. We’ve got the equipment being ordered all our plans in place,” Huxter said.
Alongside the six-week wait for collars, UWSS and Oak Bay must apply to capture and tag the province’s deer.
Collaring deer is first – “We need to start gathering that information first and foremost,” Huxter said. Then the plan is to place motion-activated cameras on known deer trails.
“We thought we could send out teams of people and identify them, but looking over the area there are so many places the deer can hide. What we’re going to do is have 40 cameras set up,” Huxter said. Four cameras within each square kilometre, would snap images of deer _ identified by tags or other natural identifying markers.
“That will give us information about their movement. We have a statistician who will be taking all this data … it well tell us much more about what the population density looks like,” Huxter said. The project is based on significant support from Camosun College and the University of Victoria.
“We really want to get the community engaged in this process as well,” Huxter said. “In some areas we will be asking residents if we can place a camera on their property.”
The UWSS website,, is under renovation to accept sighting information, something they already do on their Facebook page.
“We want to make sure that everybody in Oak Bay knows exactly what’s going on so they’re not caught off guard,” Huxter said. “We’re only going to be doing this for two to three months.”
Oak Bay offers an abundance of vegetation and no natural predators contributing to a perceived rise of the black-tailed deer population. Since 2012, deer mortalities within Oak Bay have averaged at 35 to 45 per year.
“What we’ve heard in our citizen survey and what i continually hear throughout the community the vast majority of our residents feel there are too many deer in a very small area. We’ve got to remember Oak Bay is only 10 square kilometres,” Jensen said.
The information would be used to develop an understanding of population size, density and movement patterns of black-tailed deer in Oak Bay and help the municipality develop an evidence-based, systematic, long-term urban deer management program as well as provide a science-based standard for effective urban deer population control.
A potential next phase of the UWSS plan previously outlined includes immuno-contraceptives, administered to female deer.
  • by  Christine van Reeuwyk - Oak Bay News
  • Oak Bay posted Mar 16, 2017 at 4:00 PM

Sunday, February 12, 2017

It's True – Victoria has received hardly any deer complaints

Through a Freedom of Information Request, DeerSafe Victoria has received all letters of complaint regarding urban deer that were sent to the municipality of Victoria between 2012 and 2016.  The following is a summary.
  • One garden complaint.

  • No complaints.

  • Four letters; two regarding traffic safety, one fearing for the safety of children, one regarding a neighbour feeding deer

  • Two garden complaints.

A Times Colonist article (All Eyes on Kootenay Deer Relocation Program, July 19, 2016) quoted Mayor Helps as stating that she hardly gets any complaints about deer.  That comment prompted four letters and two phone calls.

  • Four letters; three garden complaints (referencing the Mayor's comment in the Times Colonist) and one fearing for the safety of children.
  • Two phone calls logged; one garden complaint and one listing concerns about Lyme Disease, cougars and traffic incidents.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Urban deer a problem, councillors say, but it’s not Victoria’s to solve

Bill Cleverley / Times Colonist
January 7, 2017 12:01 AM

Victoria city councillors say wildlife is a provincial responsibility — not a municipal one.   Photograph By BRUCE STOTESBURY, Times Colonist

Victoria councillors acknowledge that urban deer might be becoming an issue in the city — but they don’t want to be the ones who deal with it.

Councillors agreed this week to have staff report back on the efforts by the provincial government, neighbouring municipalities and the Capital Regional District on urban deer management and to determine the magnitude of the issue.

But they stopped short of having them offer any solutions to deal with deer, agreeing that wildlife is a provincial responsibility — not a municipal one.

“If we’re not going to take on this job, why would we suggest solutions?” said Coun. Margaret Lucas.

“I think this is our issue, but the solution is not ours. I think we have to be very, very careful that we don’t take on a provincial issue. We don’t have the money. Staff don’t have the expertise.”

Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe brought up the topic during a review of the strategic plan.

“I’m noticing and I’m hearing that there are deer in the City of Victoria and we’re getting concerns from our citizens that something needs to be done,” Thornton-Joe told councillors.

“I’m not saying the City of Victoria has to do it nor fund it, but I don’t think we can just turn a blind eye that the issue does exist.”

Other councillors agreed, but weren’t willing to take the lead on something that they said the province should be handling.

“I just don’t want the City of Victoria to get at the front of the deer loop and be the only one taking action,” Coun. Jeremy Loveday said.

“I do think that if action is being taken — and I happen to think that something needs to be done — it does need to be done regionally. You’ve seen by efforts in other municipalities that it doesn’t work if you go it alone.”

Mayor Lisa Helps said she would be happy to get a report.

“I’m not happy to spend one cent on deer management. It is a provincial responsibility. Wildlife is a provincial responsibility. It always has been [and] until something changes it will be,” she said.

“I don’t think we need to ask our staff to start looking at solutions. But if we can make a strong case to the province — Oak Bay has a strong case [and] Esquimalt will be doing some of this work, from what I understand — then collectively we can go to the province and say: ‘We’ve done the research and let’s work together on solutions.’ ”

Resident frustrations with urban deer are percolating throughout the region, but communities are divided on what actions to take.

In a move that divided the community and sparked protests, Oak Bay in 2015 conducted a cull, trapping and killing 11 deer.

Late last year, Oak Bay asked the province to match funds up to $20,000, allowing the municipality to partner with the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society to run a deer-contraception program.

The province turned down the request, saying it wanted more research done.
A recent survey of Esquimalt residents found a majority are willing to pay higher taxes to fund a deer-management program.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Provincial dollars a big win for municipalities, says NDP candidate, Invermere mayor

3 Interior B.C. communities get provincial funding for urban deer culls

Provincial dollars a big win for municipalities, says Invermere mayor

By Matt Meuse, CBC News Posted: Dec 11, 2016 5:00 PM PT

Three B.C. municpalities will recieve provincial funding to manage their urban deer populations. (JL1967/Flickr)

The province is putting up more than $56,000 for urban deer management in Interior B.C. — an important jurisdictional victory for municipalities, according to the mayor of Invermere.
Invermere is getting $10,200 to help cull its urban deer population. Grand Forks is getting $16,000 and Elkford is getting $10,000.
Cranbrook is getting nearly $20,000 for a pilot relocation program.
Gerry Taft, mayor of Invermere, says the money is a win for cities because it's an acknowledgement from the province about its responsibility for the deer.
"We always need permission from the province [to cull or relocate deer]," Taft said. "We always felt that the province should be at the table as the funders, that they should be helping to fund these solutions."

Relocation programs tested

Taft said the funding is on a per-deer basis, with the province doling out $200 per deer. He says that covers most of the cost of the cull, but not all of it.
Invermere has been culling its urban deer population since 2011. Taft says the city's strategy has changed significantly since then; the initial goal was to reduce the population as much as possible, but the city now takes a more strategic approach, culling a smaller number but focusing on especially problematic areas.
The city has also experimented with relocation programs, tagging and moving 13 deer out of the city in 2016.
Taft says the results were mixed. The deer took to the relocation better than expected, but several have already ended up back in town.
"They were moved over 50 kilometres away from Invermere into the backcountry, [but] at least four of those deer have returned to Invermere," he said.

Humans to blame

Wild animal culls are always contentious issues, and Taft says Invermere is no exception.
He said the relocation program shows some promise as an alternative to culling, but the costs might be prohibitive if so many of the deer return to the city anyway.
But Taft says problems with urban deer are, at their core, just as much about humans as about the deer themselves.
To that end, Taft hopes the cull will have the secondary effect of making people realize that their own actions are putting deer at risk — things like feeding deer or leaving garbage unsecured.
"It's about what humans are doing and the behaviour of humans that are attracting deer and allowing them to thrive and stay in these urban environments," he said.
With files from CBC Radio One's Radio West.