Oak Bay council’s decision to sign onto the Capital Regional District’s deer-management pilot project to cull 25 deer is ill-advised. The two main issues surrounding the deer — that deer eat garden plants and that they cross roadways, posing hazards to city drivers — can be solved more effectively and humanely than with a deer cull.It is understandable that Oak Bay residents and officials want a “magic bullet” solution that will put an end to strife with deer. Unfortunately there is no magic bullet.
Oak Bay, like other communities in B.C., subscribe to the misconception that getting rid of deer will get rid of human-deer conflicts. It is an expensive mistake, one that has proven disastrous in other municipalities. Nature abhors a vacuum; removing deer will only allow those remaining to increase their offspring and will open the door to neighbouring deer.
Humane, non-lethal solutions exist. But, first, councillors need to address the conditions that attract the animals. Enforcing local bylaws that prohibit feeding deer is key, as is getting residents to protect their gardens by planting deer-resistant plants and by using protective fencing around vulnerable species.
Properly constructed roadway fencing can keep deer off hazardous stretches of road and will funnel them to wildlife crossing structures such as raised deer crosswalks or toward less dangerous crossing locations. The main solution for preventing driver-deer collisions, however, is city-wide education to help residents learn how to drive in deer-populated areas. Warning signs indicating deer crossings, speed limit reductions and defensive driving in heavily deer-trafficked areas will all be more effective in reducing deer-human conflicts than will culls, which studies have shown do not work.
Last, immunocontraception is emerging as one of the best humane options for communities that determine they must have fewer deer.
With so many options available to deal humanely and effectively with residents’ concerns about deer, city council must take a step back from its ill-informed sign-on to a deer cull and consider what is best for, if not the deer, then for residents who demand humane solutions to wildlife conflicts. Doing anything less could harm not only the deer, but their own electoral careers.
Director of wildlife issues, Animal Alliance of Canada