Saturday, November 30, 2013

“What I fear most has come upon me.”

Let's Be Responsible
Dear Editor:
The awful feeling that’s in the pit of my stomach and the heartache that goes along with it is difficult to explain. How can our system fail so badly? Only Invermere land owners are allowed to vote on the deer cull! As far as I know, we all live in this wildlife corridor from south of Cranbrook to north of Golden. How on earth can 729 landowners from Invermere decide on the fate of these beautiful creatures who belong to no one. This valley is much coveted because it is a wildlife corridor and it is here for us all to enjoy and project.
It was in extremely poor taste that something as sensitive as the deer cull was voted on alongside a vote for a new community centre. What kind of a community are you building? What kind of example are you setting? May I suggest a poor one on both accounts? Your 729 votes mean nothing to me — this is ludicrous!
For the past two months, I have personally visited every deer that I could find in the town of Invermere — call it my own personal study. Not one deer was aggressive. Quite the contrary. They all moved away from me, including the bucks. I have counted about 75 deer (if I haven’t counted some twice). I believe this attitude of fearmongering is uncalled for! These are gentle, shy creatures — not predators!
If you are afraid of these animals, it is in your own head. “What I fear most has come upon me.”
Many of us are here in this valley because we love the animals and choose to live alongside them. If you do not like the deer, you should definitely consider moving out of a wildlife corridor.
This is not the responsibility of Invermere council to decide what happens to the deer. Absolutely not!

The answer to this whole mess is so simple: grow up. Take responsibility for your own yard (in other words, put up a fence); quit being lazy and irresponsible; and stop passing your poor behaviour on to the town council to handle — it’s not their responsibility!
Town council is not your mommy or daddy. It’s time to make a decision to build a fence or not! It is up to you. You don’t want your community to be boycotted because of your childish behaviour, do you? Remember, everyone around the world is watching.
Margaret Porcina

Thursday, November 28, 2013

SPCA wants deer cull off the table

by  Christopher Sun - Victoria News
posted Nov 27, 2013 at 6:00 AM— updated Nov 27, 2013 at 4:56 PM
A buck shows no fear in modern suburbia. - File photo
A buck shows no fear in modern suburbia.
— image credit: File photo
The BCSPCA and others are demanding Oak Bay council reverse its decision to allow a deer cull in the district, saying the lethal approach will not end the problem.
Two weeks ago, Oak Bay council voted five to one to sign onto the Capital Regional District’s deer management pilot project, which recommends the culling of up to 25 deer, with the meat, antlers and hooves going to the Songhees First Nations. Coun. Cairine Green was the lone dissenter and Coun. Tara Ney was absent for the vote.
BCSPCA manager of wildlife services Sara Dubois said Oak Bay’s approval for a cull is “misguided” and a “knee-jerk reaction.”
“We’ve heard from a lot of our supporters who are really upset with this deer cull,” Dubois said. “Take the cull off the table and have a conversation with deer management experts.”
BCSPCA CEO Craig Daniell wrote a letter to council in late June, expressing his organization’s opposition to a deer cull in Oak Bay. The letter asked for community consultation on the issue and enforcement of local bylaws as locals are feeding deer, encouraging the animals to stick around and multiply.
Dubois said deer control is under provincial jurisdiction and the province should be dealing with the issue directly. She cited a cull in the interior, where of the 25 deer killed, 11 were the wrong species.
“Responding to wildlife is not something municipalities have experience in or have the support and resources to do,” Dubois said. “It’s an indiscriminate cull. … They have no sense of the deer population.”
The Association for the Protection of Fur Bearing Animals is also against the cull and has launched a letter writing campaign on its website, directing the public to voice their opposition to Oak Bay council.
Executive director Lesley Fox said culls do not work.
“You kill 25 in Oak Bay and 25 from Saanich will just walk in,” Fox said. “This is a total waste of taxpayer money. Redirect the money being spent on the cull to help those specific homeowners who are complaining.”
Fox said the province is to blame for deer overpopulation, as it allowed the indiscriminate killing of wolves, creating the deer imbalance. She said this cull will stain Oak Bay’s reputation.
“It sends a bad message to the community, that animals are disposable,” Fox said. “Part of being a Canadian, and being on the island, is being able to share (your space) with a variety of species and deer is one of them, like it or not.
“This is nature, we are part of it and we live with it.”
The association’s mandate is to protect fur bearing animals such as fox and mink, however the increasing number of deer culls in the province is concerning its members.
“We are really scared this is going to be a pattern,” Fox said. “What’s next? Coyotes, raccoons and maybe the year after that Canada geese?”
Fox was in talks with a number of groups and people about spaying deer with a vaccine called SpayVac. Her organization was exploring the idea of donating $50,000 toward spaying, if it meant no cull. However, she said there are other avenues that residents can take to remove deer from their property. The Association for Fur Bearing Animals, BCSPCA, DeerSafe and Friends of Animals have put together a booklet that will be distributed in Oak Bay to teach people how to live with deer.
Is spaying the answer?
Mark Fraker is a biologist and president of SpayVac for Wildlife Inc. and TerraMar Environmental Research, based in Sidney. He said SpayVac was originally developed at Dalhousie University for the Department of Fisheries and Ocean to spay seal.
Fraker modified the drug, which is derived from pig protein, so it can be used on deer, wild horses and elephants. The drug is a vaccine injected into the animal and preliminary tests have shown that it can prevent pregnancy for up to six years. The life expectancy of deer is typically seven to eight years.
The drug costs $200 per dose and approval must be granted by Health Canada and the province’s wildlife veterinarian. While the approval process is cumbersome, Fraker said it’s not impossible.
“I have experience with the paperwork, it’s not bad,” Fraker said, explaining it would take six months to get all necessary permits in place or sooner if an emergency application is made. “Any vet, under the veterinarian act in the province, has the authority to sign a one page piece of paper to get the drug for emergency use and the federal government will release it.”
The drug is considered experimental as it has not been widely used. However, Fraker has used it in the United States and locally, at CFB Esquimalt and Maple Ridge, with positive results.
“(In Maple Ridge) there were 10 females and they had 12 (fawns). Five years down the road after they were treated, there was only one born instead of 60,” Fraker said. “These are typical results. That was a 50-times reduction in fawns being born.”
The best time to vaccinate deer in Oak Bay would be in the late summer and early fall, when there is shortage of food, likely when the cull would take place as well.
Fraker does not earn royalties from SpayVac sales as it’s owned by a pharmaceutical company. He earns his income as a consultant and on contracts to vaccinate animals with the drug.
Local biologist Rick Page is also a proponent for SpayVac. He said the culling of deer requires trapping the animal and then stunning it in the head with a bolt gun, which does not instantly kill the animal.
“After they get knocked out with a bolt gun, their throats are slit,” Page said. “They are killed by bleeding out. … The deer will be put on a plastic sled to bleed out on instead of the ground.”
Page also said female deer have proven to be territorial in urban surroundings, which makes SpayVac a better option.
“They essentially keep the other does out,” Page said. “It’s the bucks that travel.”
Mayor Nils Jensen said Oak Bay and the Capital Regional District have worked on a deer management plan for two years. He has personally met with various groups and individuals over the years to find a non-lethal solution to dealing with the deer problem and all alternatives have been explored, which is why council finally made the decision to allow a cull.
“It’s not a decision we have taken lightly,” Jensen said. “We have had countless meetings on this issue.”
Jensen said SpayVac was something he was very interested in, but it’s an experimental drug that would be used in conjunction with a research proposal that needs funding, something that has not materialized.
“I don’t think there is enough science behind SpayVac,” Jensen said, adding that council’s biggest concern is public safety, which needs to be addressed now.
“I heard a story about a child who came very close to being trampled on by deer. I have heard of dogs almost getting trampled on. Recently I heard of a cyclist who was struck by a deer and knocked off his bike,” Jensen said. “Our (council’s) responsibility is to deal with those issues in a fair and reasonable manner and that’s what we are doing.”
Jensen also said a deer cull is just one of many things that will be used to manage the deer population.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Fur flies over Oak Bay deer-cull protest at mayor's home

Sarah Petrescu / Times Colonist
November 25, 2013 07:51 PM
Ann Winberg participates in Saturday's rally in Oak Bay Village to oppose the municipality's deer-control plans.  Photograph by: ADRIAN LAM, Times Colonist 

Marion Cumming won’t budge on her stance against the proposed deer cull in Oak Bay. But she will bring cookies — little gingerbread deer, of course — to the mayor and council as a peace offering.
Keeping a friendly dialogue going is important, she said. “That’s the key.”

Cumming and others are angry that Oak Bay council recently approved a plan to trap and cull deer, the proliferation of which has caused safety concerns in residential areas.

On Saturday, about 45 people opposed to the cull took a protest walk to Mayor Nils Jensen’s house. He wasn’t home but was upset to hear about the incident later.

“It shouldn’t have happened,” Jensen said. “My door is always open at the office. I’ve met with a lot of these people. . . . This was an unfair imposition on my family and neighbours.”

Cumming, who was not part of the protest at mayor’s home, said the group was well-intentioned with anti-cull carols prepared, like “God Rest Ye Merry Gentle Deer.”

Kelly Carson, protest organizer and DeerSafe Victoria member, said: “In hindsight, I am very sorry that we may have upset him. I see that I need to brush up on my crowd-control skills.”

Carson hopes the council works to find a non-lethal way to deal with the deer and avoid a cull.

The mayor said they’re exploring all options and a cull is not in the immediate future.

“DeerSafe will continue to write to the levels of government that are making decisions concerning non-lethal deer management, urging them to take these alternative options seriously,” Carson said.

Other local politicians said showing up on Jensen’s doorstep crossed the line.

“Family and neighbours should be left out of public debate,” said Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard, who faced placards and graffiti at his tire business in the 1980s when a few regional district issues became heated.
“People get very passionate and have valid points. But you do hope common sense prevails,” he said.

Leonard posted news about Saturday’s protest on his Facebook page, and it turned into a public debate.
Piping in on the comments was Invermere Mayor Gerry Taft, who said a confrontation with anti-deer cull activists led to his municipality being sued, his business boycotted and tampering with traps.

Former Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Ida Chong never had a protest come to her home. But she did face “fowl play” in her constituency office in 2010 when six live hens were let loose by environmental protesters, who later apologized.

“It takes time to repair relationships and really talk after things like this,” she said.

Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin said he wouldn’t compare the deer protest with the vandalism on his family home and car in 2010 by a homeless activist. He said mayors are the most accessible politicians and the public should take advantage of legitimate avenues.

“What I love about civic politics are the chats at Thriftys or the pool,” Fortin said. “And there’s public hearings, open doors. That’s when we have our public personas on and are happy to talk,” he said. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Times Colonist covers November 23 Deer Demo in Oak Bay

Deer-cull protesters stalk Oak Bay mayor’s home

Louise Dickson / Times Colonist
November 23, 2013 10:05 PM


Demonstrators march Saturday along Oak Bay Avenue.  Photograph by: ADRIAN LAM, Times Colonist

Protesters descended on Mayor Nils Jensen’s home Saturday, urging him to reconsider Oak Bay’s participation in a Capital Regional District pilot project to cull 25 deer over the next year.

About 45 people marched down Oak Bay Avenue carrying signs and singing. At the last minute, the group decided to bring its message home to Jensen and marched down the street where he lives.

The mayor, however, was not at home and learned about the protest later in the afternoon.

“I think it’s highly inappropriate,” Jensen said. “It really amounts to bullying to get someone to change their mind. I don’t think it adds much to the debate.”

Oak Bay council this month approved a plan to trap and kill 25 deer, with the venison, hide, antlers and hooves going to Songhees First Nation.

The aim of the $12,500 initiative is to reduce the number of deer in the municipality and calm residents who have complained about deer taking over backyards, munching on garden shrubs and devouring homegrown vegetables.

The council also cited health and safety concerns. Last year, 23 deer carcasses were retrieved from roadsides by public works crews. There have been 34 so far this year.

“The worst thing about the cull is that these animals are going to die because they are inconvenient,” said Kelly Carson, the protest’s organizer and a member of DeerSafe Victoria. “This isn’t about health and safety. This is about inconvenience and annoyance.”

Carson said she opposes the cull because the deer will not be killed humanely.*

According to the Ministry of Forest Lands and Natural Resource Operations, the most common method for catching deer is baiting them with apples or alfalfa in a “clover trap” made of netting. The deer is caught in the net and killed with a bolt gun, which drives a metal bolt into the animal’s brain, similar to what is used on cattle in slaughterhouses.

Carson said the animals tend to go for the bait early, then spend the night thrashing around in the trap.

“Before dawn, two men need to collapse the trap onto the deer,” she said.

“They throw their body weight onto the deer and they use a captive bolt gun to try and fire it into the brain of the struggling animal. It can’t be done humanely.”

Another protester, Susan Ko, said she welcomes deer in her Oak Bay garden.

“I think they have just as much right to be here as we do,” she said. “It’s that simple for me.”

Ko said she was disappointed in Oak Bay council and believes members were swayed by people interested in the meat.

“The research shows this is not going to be successful and it’s not humane,” Ko said. “I know some people have hit them with their cars, and that must be very traumatic. But people crash into trees all the time. We don’t cut them down.”

Oak Bay council will continue to look at the deer management issue. The terms of reference set out steps — including public education — that have to be taken before the cull takes place, said Jensen.

“It’s conceivable once we’ve taken these other steps, we may not need to take the cull,” he said. “The cull’s been approved if we get to that stage. … I fully appreciate this is an emotional issue for a lot of people and for council.”

* “Carson said she opposes the cull because the deer will not be killed humanely.”  Killing cannot be done humanely.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Clover Traps Coming to Oak Bay?

After turning down a sign last month that a local resident wanted to erect in a high deer collision area in Oak Bay, Mayor Jensen referred to visible deer signs as "visual pollution."

Citing deer/vehicle collisions as a main concern, council has now decided that killing 25 deer will be appropriate, and set aside $12,500 to move forward with a limited cull.

According to the Council Staff Reports, property owners have already come forward to offer their land to clover traps. There has been no discussion concerning neighbouring properties, or the rights of those property owners to quiet enjoyment of their own homes.

The Ministry of Forests, Land and Natural Resource Operations have guidelines for municipalities looking to procure a trap and kill permit. Mike Badry, the Wildlife Conflict Prevention Manager for MFLNRO, spoke recently at a Fur-Bearer Defenders wildlife conference. He noted that these permits are not “just given out” and that municipalities must demonstrate that they have tried other deer/human conflict mitigation methods before they can qualify for a kill permit.

Yesterday the mayor told the media that Oak Bay will move toward public education and road signs. Will a few weeks of “other deer/human conflict mitigation” be sufficient for Oak Bay to secure a kill permit in order to cull 25 deer in January 2014?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Flagged as ‘critical’ to deer habitat, area near Cathedral Grove was turned over to logging

Mark Hume
VANCOUVER The Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, Nov. 05 2013, 9:30 AM EST
Decade-old government documents show that an area being logged near Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island was identified by Ministry of Environment biologists as critical winter habitat for deer that had to be protected.
Environmental groups have been protesting the logging in recent weeks, arguing that a 40-hectare patch on Mt. Horne is an important wildlife corridor. But Island Timberlands is permitted to log there because the government took the land out of Tree Farm Licence (TFL) 44 in 2004, putting it under a private land management regime that allows the company to decide what’s best for wildlife.
Government e-mails viewed by The Globe and Mail show that in 2001 and 2002, several officials in the Ministry of Environment fought to protect ungulate winter ranges, describing them as the most important habitat of its kind on Vancouver Island.
“We should be prepared to die in the trenches if designated [ungulate winter ranges] on these lands get thrown out,” Doug Janz, then British Columbia’s senior wildlife biologist, stated in one e-mail to ministry colleagues.
“These drainages have the best quality ungulate winter ranges and the highest use by deer anywhere,” wrote Bob Cerenzia, a wildlife technician at the time. “To have these areas arbitrarily removed from Government protection has me feeling that I have wasted the last 27 yrs. of my working life in which I spent considerable time ‘keeping the hounds at bay’ so to speak. If we cannot ensure the retention of these critical deer winter ranges, then in my opinion, we could lose our deer populations in these drainages!”
The government went ahead with the conversion of TFL 44 lands despite the protests from staff, but ministry officials signed a letter of agreement with Weyerhaeuser, which then held the land, to continue negotiations over the winter ranges.
Mr. Cerenzia, who is now retired from government, said those talks stalled after Weyerhaeuser sold the lands to Island Timberlands. He said the amount of critical winter range left on Vancouver Island has hit rock bottom.
“We shouldn’t be removing any of those regions we identified as critical winter ranges, because we don’t have enough ungulate deer winter range to start with,” he said. Asked what would happen if the critical winter range is cut, Mr. Cerenzia said: “I would say you’d see a drastic reduction in the amount of deer you are going to have out there.”
But the logging company isn’t violating any regulations, said Forest, Lands and Natural Resources Minister Steve Thomson.
“Island Timberlands is fully within its rights to log its private land,” he said in a written statement. “There was an ungulate winter range that covered part of the private land when it [was] managed as part of Tree Farm Licence 44 … however, Island Timberlands now manages for wildlife habitat in a way that meets their needs.”
Darshan Sihota, CEO of Island Timberlands, could not be reached for comment despite several calls.
Scott Fraser, the NDP MLA for the area, just outside Port Alberni, said he has talked with Mr. Sihota about the issue.
“The meeting I had with Mr. Sihota, he said ‘it’s our land and hey, if we were doing anything wrong the minister would have told us,’” Mr. Fraser said. He said Mr. Thomson should step in because the government’s own records show the area is vital to deer, which move there to feed and shelter during the winter.
“There is science on this. This is critical habitat that should never be cut,” Mr. Fraser said. “I have FOI [freedom of information documents] showing ministry staff vehemently disagreed with Island Timberlands doing anything on this land, [saying] that logging it will cause irreparable damage.”
Mr. Fraser said the forest was considered a “no-go area” for decades by the two companies that previously held TFL 44, MacMillan Bloedel Ltd. and Weyerhaeuser.
But after 70,000 hectares on Vancouver Island was removed from TFL 44, the new owners, Island Timberlands, began cutting into the areas identified as ungulate winter ranges, arguing that it could do so without putting deer at risk. Of the 2,400 hectares of land designated for wildlife protection, only about 900 hectares remain unlogged.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Deer sign receives thumbs-down from Oak Bay council

Marion Cumming holds a sign she hopes the municipality will place along Foul Bay Road, which has a lot of deer crossings. She presented the sign to Oak Bay council last week.
Christopher Sun/News staff

By Christopher Sun - Victoria News
Published: October 29, 2013 3:00 PM
Updated: October 29, 2013 3:38 PM
An Oak Bay deer lover hopes a road sign she designed and had created will be placed along a low-speed stretch of Foul Bay Road, telling drivers to slow down.

Marion Cumming presented a red-and-white sign reading, “Please Slow Down” with a picture of a deer on it, to Oak Bay council at its Oct. 15 meeting. She admits having driven faster than the 30 km/h speed limit on Foul Bay Road between Oak Bay Avenue and Fairfield Road in past, until learning it is a heavily used pathway for the animals.

“When I found out it is a deer crossing, I slowed down,” Cumming said, adding that most people speed along it. “People don’t think there is any reason to slow down to 30 km/h.”

Cumming spent $125 to create the sign. If people knew there were deer in the area, she said, they would slow down and follow the speed limit. However, council wasn’t enthusiastic about adopting it for use.
“We already have deer warning signs on some of our roads,” said Mayor Nils Jensen. “We always try to have standardized signs to limit visual pollution.”

Jensen later said it is a challenge creating and placing signs, because too many can cause confusion and often leads to them being ignored.

While Jensen recalled seeing a deer caution sign on Cadboro Bay Road, he couldn't recall seeing one on Foul Bay.

Cumming said another sign would add something different to catch people’s attention. She also spoke to Oak Bay’s engineering department and was told the design and placement of any signs are ultimately up to council.

“The next step is I will go back to council,” she said.