January 3, 2015 09:11 PM
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.”