Sunday, July 29, 2012

Deer Decisions Prove Difficult Without Data

Members who quit CRD committee cite lack of information on local population

By Judith Lavoie, Times Colonist July 29, 2012

Making decisions about managing deer in Greater Victoria is almost impossible when there are no accurate population figures, say two former members of the Capital Regional District's deer advisory committee.

Robin Bassett and Kerri Ward resigned this month from the 11-member committee, which will complete its report next month on management options for garden and crop-munching deer.

Bassett and Ward will not speak to reporters, but, in their letter of resignation, say lack of information on populations and the amount of agricultural and residential damage caused by deer are among the problems.
"Estimates for number of deer in the CRD vary wildly; as no scientific counts have ever been conducted, all guesses are based on anecdotal information," the letter says.

"It is difficult to make recommendations for management options when the amount of deer in agricultural, rural or residential areas is unknown."

Provincial estimates for 2011 of the number of deer on Vancouver Island range from 45,000 to 65,000. That is the same as the 2008 population estimates.

The figures are taken from extrapolating the number of deer in backcountry, not urban, areas, said Forests Ministry spokesman Brennan Clarke.

"Biologists really don't know whether the numbers are stable in the forest, but growing in the city," Clarke said. "Maybe predators in the forest are doing their job, but predators are shot when they come into the city."
Although deer numbers for Vancouver Island are largely anecdotal and based on hunter surveys, there is no doubt that the population is doing well, Clarke said.

The committee is looking at options ranging from fencing to culling, and CRD chairman Geoff Young said this week it is unlikely there will be one solution.

Opposition is developing to lethal deer-control methods, and Susan Vickery of the Earth Animal Humane Education and Rescue Society said she hopes to present a report to the CRD soon.

Vickery, who runs a sanctuary in Coombs for rescued former University of Victoria rabbits, said fencing works to keep deer out of gardens and crops, and government subsidies are available in agricultural areas.
"This is a people problem, not a deer problem. There are people who have tolerance for them and people who don't," she said.

"There's a people-expansion problem."

The Animal Alliance of Canada has also prepared a report on Developing a Progressive Non-Lethal Human/Deer Conflict Resolution Strategy for B.C.

Meanwhile, the resignation letter from Bassett and Ward says CRD taxpayers could be faced with costly court challenges because of the "deeply problematic process" being used to develop the strategy.

"A report based on subjective guessing, anecdotal information, a poorly formulated survey, nonrepresentation of all points of view and lack of key stakeholder participation (First Nations) will, we feel, produce unreliable results ripe for dispute by CRD residents," the letter says.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Two quit CRD deer committee

An 'irretrievably flawed process' lacking evidence and time cited

By Judith Lavoie, Times Colonist July 26, 2012

Two members of the Capital Regional District's deer advisory committee have resigned, saying the process is broken beyond repair.

"We do not wish to be associated with an irretrievably flawed process," says a letter from Robin Bassett and Kerri Ward to CRD chairman Geoff Young.

Bassett and Ward said in the letter that they both went into the process with open minds.

"[But] the structure, procedures and operations of the [citizens advisory committee] unfortunately were not amenable to finding solutions in a fair and rational way. Any solutions that are proposed will lack the required credibility," the letter says.

Among concerns are a lack of expert evidence; the methods used by a facilitator, who was appointed by the CRD an effort to get a consensus; an impression that "anecdotal information from the farming group always took precedence and was relied upon to the exclusion of real evidence"; and lack of time.

The 11-member committee was appointed in April to come up with recommendations for dealing with deer in the region.

The topic is highly controversial, with some Victoria residents adamantly opposed to killing deer and others arguing that numbers have to be reduced to stop gardens being gobbled, crops destroyed and people being injured in deer-vehicle collisions. The CRD has received 900 letters and emails on the subject.

Young, who attempted to persuade Bassett and Ward to remain on the committee until its final report is issued next month, said he was disappointed.

"They decided they were not interested in continuing, but they did have some recommendations for us and they will be circulated to the board with the rest of the material," Young said.  "This is an issue on which people have strong views and passions get aroused. It is difficult for committee members, and I don't know if we should have been more prescriptive about how it works."

Recommendations from Bassett and Ward include the CRD working jointly with the province; support for the use of fencing, possibly with the province offering partial compensation to farmers for fencing costs; expanded provincial insurance programs to include vegetable crop losses; and possible changes to hunting rules.

The advisory committee report is expected to go to the CRD planning committee next month. It will then go the board.

However, Young does not expect any quick and easy solutions. He believes options may be different for individual areas and that discussions may be needed with other levels of government.

"It's an issue of considerable complexity," he said. "I may have been overly optimistic about the pace at which things might proceed."

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

July 24, 2012 CAG Meeting was a Bit Different

The July 24, 2012 meeting convened a few minutes after 4 pm. Glenn Jim, a First Nations representative, was introduced as a new appointee to the CAG.  He was also appointed to the Expert Resource Working Group in April. He is a Tseycum band member from Saanich.

Discussions continued on options. Seven (including the new appointee) voting members reviewed last week's rating on “Capture and Relocate” and it was rated low. “Repellents” also rated low.

Marg Misek-Evans asked if there are any other options that have not been considered by the CAG. Glenn Jim told the group about “ghost hunters” who make handshake agreements with Saanich farmers to kill deer on their properties with no permits required due to their treaty rights. He says a fair number of deer are taken in Saanich that way.

The “Administrative Options” include “status quo.” The CAG is to do homework on the “status quo” after comments that this is a “do nothing” option. Bob Moody said it doesn't sit well with him, and Glenn Jim said there would be repercussions.

Moderndemocracy arrived during the dinner break with three cameras. The second half of the meeting was recorded by him.

At the end of the meeting Glenn Jim told the group that he would not be attending any more “of these” meetings. He left them with these thoughts:

He likens deer to cockroaches and rats, and said they would multiply like rabbits and rats. They will reach their carrying capacity within five years and will “destroy everything.” He has known Kim Brunt for quite a while, has worked with him and respects him. Jim personally favours a cull and said that sterilization was not an option and claimed that the “feds” wouldn't even think of it. He told the CAG that short term pains would result in long term benefits. They could argue all they want, but the problem will get worse. He noted that there are no deer problems in First Nations communities for a reason.

He was quoted in the third annual conference “Traditional Foods of Vancouver Island First Nations”:
“It's not about just hunting and killing. This animal is providing us with food to carry on living. We give thanks to this animal. This animal gave its life to us.”

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

From the CRD Deer Management Website Submissions

‐‐‐‐Original Message‐‐‐‐‐
From: Ginny Gareau [mailto:]
Sent: Monday, July 02, 2012 12:01 PM
To: Deer Management
Subject: deer management
Dear Committee,
Having lived in our present home since 1965 ( adjacent to Mt. Tolmie Park ) I know for a fact that for the first 27
years and possibly more, we had no deer in the park or in the area, so those persons who say we took over the 'deer terrain' are wrong. Deer are wild animals and should be living in wild areas not in an urban environment. No one that I know has taken a deer number count for the last 20 years so when persons say they are increasing, it is from anecdotal evidence or possibly sensible reasoning that animals proliferate if not eaten by predators ..If issues are not confronted when they start, they only increase in size( as has the deer problem) and are therefore harder to correct.
Obviously the committee has thought a great deal about the issue and so I would like to comment on each solution.
1.Hazing and frightening....where would the frightened deer go? I would suggest that hunger supersedes fright.
2.Repellants...I have found that Bobbix does quite a good job but I wonder at the environmental result if everyone used it?
3.Fencing... very expensive and one has to keep in mind that a deer can clear 8 feet.
4.Landscape alternatives...this can be partly successful but as hunger increases, the deer become less discriminatory... and the young eat almost anything.
5. Capture and relocate and capture and euthanize...i feel this would be the most successful and I think most voters would not mind paying
$1.00 extra tax to pay for this.( $300,000 should go a long way.) 6.
Controlled public hunting and sharp shooting... I would think rather difficult to do safely in an urban environment.
7. Capture and sterilize....this would stop their proliferation but not their eating habits!
I would hope for those who like looking at rabbits or deer out their windows, please buy a dog or cat to satisfy these animal yearnings.
Ginny Gareau

From: Kerri Ward
Sent: Wednesday, July 04, 2012 8:37 AM
To: Deer Management; 'Jocelyn Skrlac'; 'Lisa Kadonaga'; 'Patrick O'Rourke'; 'Philip Tom';
'Richard Christiansen'; 'Robert Moody'; 'Robin Bassett'; 'Sol Kinnis'; 'Terry Michell';
'Wendy Fox'
Subject: RE: deer management
Despite Ginny Gareau's claim "we had no deer in the park or in the area" for "the first 27 years and possibly more" there are records and documentation that show otherwise. Deer have inhabited the Mt. Tolmie area for thousands of years; it is only in recent years, due to increased urbanization and the loss of natural habitat, that the deer have become more visible to residents.
There are dozens of aerial and ground photographs, population data, planning and archival documents, and maps showing continual growth and development since 1965, when Mrs. Gareau moved to her home. She neglects to
mention the dramatic increase in residential development (houses, apartment buildings and condominiums) and the building of three shopping malls and numerous commercial buildings in the immediate Mt. Tolmie area since 1965. In addition, the significant growth of UVIC and its surrounding environment in recent years is also a contributing factor to loss of habitat and visibility of wildlife. I would be happy to bring documentation to a CAG meeting.

Friday, July 13, 2012

This is Your Citizen's Advisory Group at Work - Video Posted Soon

The CAG meeting convened on July 11, 2012, at 4 pm. Seven of the 11 appointed members were present. Absent were Philip Tom, Jocelyn Skrlac, Robin Bassett and Kerri Ward.

Ray Galey, a Central Saanich farmer, was sitting in the public area. As the meeting began he stood up and pontificated unhindered by CRD staff for several minutes. He then left. Ray Galey has never attended a single meeting of the CAG before this one.

One of the management options that was rated at this meeting was contraception. Jan Pezarro, the facilitator, wrote on the flip-chart the heading "Immunosuppression." Terry Michell (a commercial farmer) pointed out the error in the term, which is immuno-contraception, and the heading was scratched out and corrected. During the discussion that followed it was evident that no member on the CAG had received any information or research on immuno-contraception. In fact, Sol Kinnis (an urban gardener) perceived it as a hormonal contraceptive. The rating system progressed over the next hour, and immuno-contraception received a low rating.

Sharpshooting was discussed and given a high rating by the six CAG members who voted.

Ungulate vehicle collision mitigation was divided into two categories with one part to be considered at the next meeting, and this phase ran well past the 8 pm timeframe for the CAG meetings.

Correspondence may have been discussed after most of the public left.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Vancouver Island district mulls a cull of city-dwelling deer

A Vancouver Island district is considering a deer slaughter in response to growing complaints from residents about the run-ins with the animals even though their numbers haven’t increased much over the past few years.
(Chad Hipolito/for The Globe and Mail) 
From 2008 to 2011, the black-tailed deer population on the Island has not changed significantly, according to B.C. Ministry of Environment reports. One put the total between 45,000 and 65,000 last year, and provincial biologists estimated it was close to 50,000 in 2010.
Some animal activists say these estimates are based on only sample head counts. “They simply have no idea how many black-tailed deer there are,” said Liz White, a founding director of Animal Alliance. Vancouver Island does not have too many deer, she added.
Councillor Geoff Young, chair of the Capital Regional District board, said the locals think otherwise. “There is a strong perception in the urban areas that there is an increase in deer population,” he said, adding that he lives in an area that was deer-free 20 years ago, but now has lots of sightings.
Ms. White said that’s an illusion. Extensive development in the district, which includes the southern tip of Vancouver Island, forces the animals out of their natural habitat, she said, making city-dwellers believe there are more.
Victoria Councillor Ben Isitt has noticed the slow extension of urban boundaries. “Even areas that were farmland a few years ago are seeing new subdivisions,” he said. “In sort of the forested hills around the city, we’re seeing more and more sprawl.”
This attracts deer, a provincial official said.
“They have lots of cover so they are comfortable, there’s fewer predators, food sources are plentiful and they have a higher survival rate,” Helen Schwantje, the province’s wildlife veterinarian, wrote in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail, adding that these factors can quickly increase the numbers of deer.
One wildlife expert said the issue is not the actual population, but whether people are willing to put up with the city-dwelling deer.
“Some communities are going to be more tolerant of deer conflicts than others,” said Micheal Badry, a provincial wildlife conflicts prevention co-ordinator. He said that communities must look at all the options when they feel their level of deer and human conflict has peaked.
The CRD has reached that point. Deer thwart food production by feasting on crops in the rural areas, district officials said. And a local report says 103 deer and vehicle collisions were reported in 2010.
Recently, a deer had to be shot in the public square between Victoria City Hall and the CRD building after it was injured by a car, Mr. Isitt said. “It’s almost nature sending a sign to decision-makers,” he said, “if nature had that kind of influence.”
The board decided it needed a deer management strategy and established a community advisory group to propose an action plan in July. Jocelyn Skrlac, the chair of the committee, said 11 options are under consideration, including reducing the deer population.
Invermere, Kimberley, and Cranbrook have held deer culls, said Ms. White of Animal Alliance, which may make it politically easier for other areas, like the CRD, to follow suit. But killing deer won’t solve the problem, she said.
She proposes measures that make cities liveable for humans and deer, including driver education programs and wildlife corridors. The province urges committees to look at such measures first, Mr. Badry said, but sometimes a community will conclude it is necessary to kill some deer.
The final decision rests with the district board.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Kim Brunt, was invited to speak to the CAG on June 5. "No one wants to kill Bambi's Mom."

Kim Brunt, senior biologist for Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, spoke to the CRD in October 2011.  He is seen here telling the CRD Board "outright cull in reduction of population is usually the most effective, and cost effective for the results that you are looking for."

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Deer Shot in Centennial Square Yesterday

Deer shot in Centennial Square after being hit by vehicle

Deer euthanized in Centennial Square after being hit by vehicle

By Clare Clancy, July 3, 2012 

  An injured deer that wandered downtown was euthanized by a conservation officer on Monday afternoon.

The deer suffered a broken leg after being hit by a car at the intersection of Douglas Street and Cormorant Avenue, said Const. Rick Anthony, who was on scene. The vehicle's driver didn't appear injured according to police.

Two police units responded to the situation about 2:30 p.m. after multiple 911 calls, Anthony said. The deer had sought refuge on a patch of grass in Centennial Square.

"It's tragic, whether it's a cougar, or a bear, or a deer," Anthony said. "She was very badly wounded."

Police cleared Centennial Square and waited for conservation officers and B.C. SPCA to arrive.

"It's such a public space. If there's any way we could've changed this location, we would have," Anthony said, adding that moving the deer would have caused a safety issue.

"They're very unpredictable ... she was in fight-or-flight mode."

He said deer rarely wander downtown despite going into other areas of Victoria.

"It's a wild animal in the heart of downtown," he said. "I'm an animal lover, so it's tough."

Caroline Crawford of the B.C. SPCA said the leg was too badly wounded to survive.

"We consulted with the [Wild Animal Rehabilitation Centre.] They advised humane euthanasia, because when [deer] are older than one year, they can't be rehabilitated," she said. "It's very sad."

Adam Sheffield from Victoria Animal Control Services said he received a call earlier in the day from a member of the public who saw a deer walking down Blanchard Street. He said that, though conservation officers handle all wildlife issues, he responded to the call.

"I looked and couldn't find it," he said. "It had disappeared."

The increase in the number of deer in the region, particularly in more urban municipalities, is a growing concern. The Capital Regional District has set up a citizens advisory committee to study and evaluate potential options, from keeping the status quo up to a cull. The committee is to report to the CRD later this summer. The CRD would then make recommendations.

-- With files from Kim Westad