Sunday, January 18, 2015

Wildlife activists to cast eyes on deer cull in Oak Bay

Bill Cleverley / Times Colonist
January 17, 2015 10:36 PM


Oak Bay’s cull of up to 25 deer could begin this month.   Photograph By ADRIAN LAM, Times Colonist
Wildlife activists say if Oak Bay moves ahead with its planned deer cull, they will be there to record it.

A mailout delivered to 5,600 Oak Bay and area households last week urges residents to notify DeerSafe Victoria if they see a deer trap.

“What we want to prove is, this is not a humane kill,” said DeerSafe spokeswoman Kelly Carson, adding the group does not plan to interfere with the traps.

“We’re there to observe the kill. We’ll be watching the traps for 24 hours or for as long as they are on the property. I think what we can report back or if we can get footage, I think it will turn peoples’ stomachs and there will be more of a push for non-lethal management.”

Oak Bay’s controversial deer-management initiative includes a cull of up to 25 deer, beginning as early as this month. The municipality has yet to receive a permit from the province for the cull.

Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen said that he expects people to respect the law and property rights. “I assume and expect that protesters will be respectful not only to property rights but to the animals and also act lawfully,” Jensen said.

Deer caught in the traps are not upset about being trapped, he said. “What upsets them are people who approach it. So if a protester were to approach these traps, it would have an adverse impact on the deer and we don’t want that to happen.”

Oak Bay’s deer program is being done in conjunction with a $150,000 Capital Regional District deer management pilot project.

The provincial permit requires a conflict-reduction program, deer-vehicle collision mitigation, public education plans and a deer count prior to any cull, all of which have been completed.

The cull came about in response to complaints from residents that deer were destroying gardens and shrubs, and posing a danger to people and pets.

“We’re doing this for public safety. We’re doing this for public health and also for the animal’s health,” Jensen said. “To have approximately 40 animals a year impaled on fences or killed by cars is not humane. This [the cull] is a humane program and it has been viewed as that by the B.C. wildlife veterinary.”

Jensen said 30,000 deer a year are killed in B.C. during the 75-day hunting season. “We are proposing a mere 25 in an urban environment for the safety of our public.”

Kristy Kilpatrick, who represents another group of residents concerned about the proposed cull, said the process leading up to the permit application has been flawed and public consultation inadequate.
She said the municipality’s deer count was unscientific and mitigation efforts insufficient, and that the eventual cull of 25 deer is not expected to have any meaningful impact.

“I think it would make very good sense to, instead of proceeding with the cull, start to direct whatever funds they have to putting other steps you can do to mitigate deer-human conflict [such as] public education and outreach, signage, reducing the speed limit and educating people,” she said.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Protestors gather as Oak Bay awaits permit for deer cull

Kelly Carson, spokesperson of DeerSafe Victoria, was among the dozens who attended the rally Saturday in front of Oak Bay municipal hall. - Submitted photo
Kelly Carson, spokesperson of DeerSafe Victoria, was among the dozens who attended the rally Saturday in front of Oak Bay municipal hall.
— image credit: Submitted photo

  • by Christine van Reeuwyk – Oak Bay News
  • posted Jan 6, 2015 at 4:00 PM
As of Monday, Oak Bay was still awaiting approval from the province for a deer cull slated to start this month.
Last fall, the district applied to the Ministry of Forest Lands and Natural Resources to cull up to 25 deer captured using modified clover traps. The window to conduct a cull closes Feb. 28.
“The province, at the end of the day, will make that determination,” said Mayor Nils Jensen, of the application. He added the municipality and CRD rely on the experts at the provincial level, particularly provincial wildlife veterinarian Dr. Helen Schwantje.
“She’s the one who will determine whether or not we proceed,” Jensen said. “She sets the criteria for a humane and ethical cull.”
If approved, the Capital Regional District would borrow traps from the province for the Oak Bay pilot project. Those have yet to arrive. Then a contractor would need to be chosen and trained.
“Waiting this out is not an option,” said Jensen, adding the province made it very clear it would only support, and allow, a cull.
Ministry of Forest Lands and Natural Resource Operations has stated it would not authorize the use of tranquilizers to aid in relocation due to the high risk of deer reacting poorly to the tranquilizer. Risks range from no reaction to the deer succumbing to the tranquilizer, causing death. Deer habituated to urban and suburban environments do not fare well when introduced into wild environments.
Residual tranquilizers can impact other animals that consume deer which have been tranquilized.
The decision to cull in a population reduction portion of the CRD regional deer management strategy came after what Jensen called a “robust” consultation process. Though some still consider that process flawed, criticizing the makeup of the citizens advisory group. DeerSafe Victoria maintains it’s not too late to conduct scientific deer counts, track the movements of deer between municipal boundaries, and research non-lethal deer management methods.
Spokesperson Kelly Carson asserts there are better ways to manage the population than “bolt gunning them in the head.”
“This is the lazy way out. I attended all the citizens advisory group meetings and there was no talk of any other …. human deer conflict mitigation, they went straight to the cull,” says Carson. “It’s a mess. It hasn’t been handled properly.”
The organization held a well-attended rally Saturday in front of municipal hall.
“I’m giving (people) a venue to voice their frustration about this method of killing that, we’re all taxpayers and we’re all paying for it,” Carson said of the weekend demonstration. “They’re making us complicit in something we are vehemently against.”
Deer are baited into modified clover traps where the trained contractor would use the trap to constrain the deer and use a bolt gun to kill it. The deer should die quickly while leaving meat uncontaminated and available for consumption. There is an agreement in place, with health authorities and the CRD, for the Esquimalt and Songhees Nations to utilize meat and artifacts from the animals.
Terms of the permit would direct the contractor to set traps at sunset and handle any animals caught by dawn.
“These animals can be in the traps for 10 hours,” Carson said. “One of our witnesses released one … he doesn’t even know if she survived she was so injured.”
Jensen says he also posed that question and learned the less interaction with people the better once an animal is trapped.
“It isn’t just the DeerSafe people who don’t want to see this, we don’t want to do this,” Jensen said, citing the numbers as highlighting increased public safety concerns.
CRD staff, volunteers and the municipal animal control contractor undertook a deer count over the course of several days in June. While not scientific, it was the methodology approved by the provincial wildlife branch and necessary to apply for the permit.
Municipal statistics show there were three documented deer deaths in 2007, none in 2008 and seven in 2009. This year and last saw about 40 deer carcasses removed by Oak Bay public works staff.
A group of municipal leaders are slated to meet in the Lower Mainland on Jan. 12 to discuss the urban and rural deer population concerns in communities such as in Greater Victoria as well as Invermere, Cranbrook and Grand Forks.
“We’re going there to hear what the ministry has to say, and to learn,” Jensen said.
If the CRD embarks on the pilot project this month in Oak Bay, the window legally closes at the end of February.
“I believe out of bravado it’s going to happen, but it’s not too late to change the system in deer management,” Carson said. “If Oak Bay is willing to spend $1,000 a deer to bolt gun them in the head… then they should be willing to do more.”

Dozens protest Oak Bay’s deer-cull push

Amy Smart/Times Colonist
January 3, 2015 09:11 PM

VKA deer 0050.jpg

Demonstrators bring out signs in front of Oak Bay municipal hall on Saturday, Jan. 3, 2015, against the planning cull of 25 deer in the municipality.   Photograph By ADRIAN LAM, Times Colonist

As Oak Bay waits for provincial approval to begin culling deer, dozens of local wildlife supporters turned out Saturday to protest what they call an unjust slaughter.
DeerSafe Victoria spokeswoman Kelly Carson said the rally was organized in response to an announcement in September that Oak Bay planned to begin the cull this month.
“It’s absolutely cruel to animals. Killing should be the very last resort, not the first,” Carson said.
Oak Bay council has approved participation in a Capital Regional District pilot project that would see 25 deer trapped and killed within the municipality’s borders.
The cull came about in response to complaints from residents that deer were destroying gardens and shrubs, and posing a danger to people and pets.
Council also cited health and safety concerns. In 2013, 40 deer carcasses were retrieved from Oak Bay roads by public works crews, up from 23 in 2012.
The cost of the municipality’s deer initiative, which also includes public education and increased fines for feeding deer, has been pegged at $12,500.
Carson said education, not culling, should be the priority, with residents learning how to co-exist with the animals.
If reducing their numbers is a must, immuno-contraception should be used instead, she said, calling that method “far more humane.” It would involve sterilizing deer with a shot, so that their numbers drop gradually.
Carson lives in Victoria, but noted the pilot project being carried out in Oak Bay could be replicated elsewhere in the capital region.
Others at the rally echoed her sentiments.
“I don’t believe that killing is the answer,” said Metchosin resident Stephanie Lockett. “I enjoy their beauty, as I did when I lived in Rockland, right next door to Oak Bay.”
Longtime Oak Bay resident Liz Ciocca said the deer cull is dividing the community. “I’ve lived here for 34 years in Oak Bay, and I feel that this has caused a really bad, bad atmosphere for us, with neighbours against neighbours.”
The municipality is still waiting for its cull permit to be approved, said Mayor Nils Jensen, adding that culling was the only method that the province would consider.
“We’ve looked at the possibility of capture-and-relocate methods and the province has indicated very clearly that they will not consider that as an option,” Jensen said.
“We’ve looked at the possibility of immuno-contraception injections. The information we’ve received from provincial authorities is there is no such serum available [to us].”
He said the cull, which will involve 25 deer, was identified as a priority because of safety concerns. Oak Bay had 10 vehicle accidents involving deer in 2012, up from one in 2008.
“We’ve also seen a rise in the aggressiveness of deer,” Jensen said. “Over the last little while, a number of pets have been attacked and maimed. The concern is that the same thing could happen to children or perhaps an elderly person with mobility issues.”
The mayor, who plans to meet with other municipal leaders this month to discuss deer culls, expects to hear from the province early this month.
Oak Bay must also identify a contractor to carry out the cull, and the contractor must be trained to use the clover traps provided by the province.
“This has not been an easy choice for council,” Jensen said.
“We acknowledge this is an emotional issue for many people, an emotional issue for council, but we felt we had to act for the sake of public safety.”