The witch hunt known as the Regional Deer Management Strategy took further steps this week when what was meant to be a covert deer count was begun in Oak Bay by CRD staff, accompanied by Mike Webb of West Coast Problem Wildlife Management.
Even though a call to by-law revealed that no deer feeding complaints have been recorded, and no fines have been imposed, Oak Bay council recently raised the fine for feeding deer from $100 to $300 for a first offense, $500 for subsequent offenses. Fines for feeding racoons and rabbits remain at $100. Inadequate care of companion animals, inadequate shelter of companion animals and cruelty remain at $50. A vicious dog fine is $200.
Oak Bay staff tallied the costs associated with "deer removal and disposal," and found that the costs merit a fine increase. According to this logic everyone who plants a garden and refuses to fence it is feeding deer, including city beautification plantings of petunias and tulips.
The aim of the $12,500 deer initiative is to appease the residents who have been complaining that deer are eating their gardens. The deer count that has taken place over the past two weeks is intended to help the CRD and Oak Bay create a plan, which will include a deer cull as early as September.
Oak Bay will find some stumbling blocks along the way, however.
The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations only issues deer killing permits for the months of November to March. November municipal elections will probably be very bad timing for a mass slaughter of deer in the CRD.
And then there is the rumour that the Ministry will not lend their clover traps to Oak Bay due to concerns of vandalism. In 2011 the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations paid $15,000 for ten deer traps, two bolt guns and a plastic sled to bleed out the deer. Communities in the CRD that have expressed an interest in a clover trap “pilot project” (Oak Bay, View Royal and Central Saanich) may be viewed as too risky for the loan, since public opposition to these culls has been very vocal.
The witch hunt began with an invitation via the Times Colonist from the CRD to residents to write in to a designated email address with their complaints about deer in early 2011. It progressed with a Citizen's Advisory Group that included a bow hunting lobbyist (and in which two appointees resigned citing “an irretrievably flawed process”), and an online survey that was not even given honourable mention in the CAG's RDMS report.
It would seem that the biggest headache for the levels of government that have tasked themselves with the appeasement of gardeners and careless drivers isn't the opposition to culling or even the deer themselves. Their lack of meaningful research into non-lethal human/deer mitigation methods and best scientific practises has given way to knee-jerk political positioning. If only they could remember what is at the heart of this irritant – animal abuse and society's response to out-of-control change for us all.