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 three 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.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Birth control plan for Oak Bay deer hits snag

Province balks at funding untested contraceptive scheme to reduce deer population
By Deborah Wilson, CBC News  Posted: Dec 09, 2016 7:10 PM PT

A plan to put deer on birth control in the Victoria suburb of Oak Bay has hit a snag.

Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen says the B.C. government is calling for more study before it will consider sharing the cost for the plan.

Last month, Oak Bay Council asked for $20,000 from the province.

Communities elsewhere in the province have received provincial funding for deer culls.

"We appear to be the only community in British Columbia at this point that are looking at a non-lethal alternative to cull for deer management," Jensen said.
"Should Oak Bay go forward with a successful fertility control program it can become a model for the rest of the province."

In 2015, Oak Bay tried a deer cull to reduce the deer population. The regional deer management pilot project killed 11 deer but drew strong opposition from the B.C. SPCA and other animal rights groups.

Contraceptive injection proposed

The current plan is to partner with a local stewardship group to trap and inject female deer with an immunocontraceptive serum.

Provincial staff say only one contraceptive drug has ever been used in B.C.and it's not currently in production, so a safe alternative needs to be identified for black-tailed deer.

Other details that need to be worked out include specifics on methods to capture the deer and administer the drug.

Jensen said Oak Bay plan should get conditional approval as a pilot project.

"These urban deer are owned by the province," Jensen said.  "They really have shown a reluctance in the last few years to really do something about it."
To be effective, Jensen said the deer fertility-control program must start three or four months before mating season in September and October.

If financial support from the province is not forthcoming, he said, the fertility-control project won't proceed.

Culls, relocation approved elsewhere

"We'd have to go back to the drawing board for council," he said.
"Our proceeding to this point was conditional on a joint province-local government initiative."

Grand Forks, Invermere and Elford have received provincial funds for deer culls. Cranbrook will also receive funds to study relocation.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Oak Bay to be a partner in deer contraception plan

Bill Cleverley / Times Colonist
November 16, 2016 06:00 AM

Friday: A young buck stops for a quick snack as he makes his rounds on Rockland Avenue. Photograph By BRUCE STOTESBURY, Times Colonist 

Oak Bay plans to partner with the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society to run a deer contraception program in the municipality.
“The hope of the program is that it will reduce the herd in Oak Bay,” Mayor Nils Jensen said Tuesday.
Oak Bay council has agreed to apply to the province for matching funds up to $20,000 to contract with the society to “implement a deer-reduction plan using fertility control.”
“We’re very pleased [with the decision],” said society president Kristy Kilpatrick.
She said details are being formulated so it is too early to say how many deer might be targeted for vaccination.
“I think the most important aspect of the motion [Monday] night was that we are now able to undertake a deer management program under the provincial definition of a research project, and that this is potentially going to provide another tool for communities who engage in urban deer reduction to do it in a humane, non-lethal way,” Kilpatrick said in an email.
The deadline for the application is Nov. 22.
The last-minute motion for the deer plan was brought forward by Coun. Tara Ney.
Created in 2015, the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society includes current and former educators, retired biologists, civil servants and working professionals. It has been lobbying for a science-based alternative to killing deer and favours controlling deer numbers through the use of SpayVac, a contraceptive vaccine.
A survey of Oak Bay residents found that deer were top of mind for many Oak Bay residents. “We saw the results of the survey were quite clear that people felt that there was an overpopulation of deer in Oak Bay,” Jensen said.
Typically, through a deer contraception program deer would be trapped in a modified clover trap. The does would be tagged, inoculated and released.
In 2015 Oak Bay sparked a wave of protests when it conducted a deer cull. Only 11 deer were killed over a 16-day period.
Jensen said when it was examining its options for deer control two years ago it was told by the province that contraceptive control was not an option and would not be approved.
“We were also told that there was no serum available in Canada at that time. So we didn’t have that as an option for consideration at that time,” Jensen said. “My position all along is we need to reduce the herd. Full stop.
“Again, that was something we saw in the results of the survey and if this is successful then it will meet that objective,” he said.
The matter will be back before councillors Monday to finalize details, Jensen said.
Jensen said there’s no question the number of deer is on the rise. Eight years ago, vehicle collisions involving deer were rare in Oak Bay. This year the municipality is on track to haul away 50 deer carcasses, he said.