Wednesday, March 18, 2015

In Spite of Public Dissent, Mayor Proceeds with Deer Extermination

by Barry Kent MacKay, March 18 2015

Spending taxpayers' money with a degree of secrecy that Eisenhower and Churchill might have envied in planning D-Day, Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen has claimed "success" in another war against a timid adversary — known as the black-tailed deer. This small race of the mule deer is in decline on Vancouver Island, but still deemed "too common" for an undisclosed number of Oak Bay residents. Oak Bay is part of the greater community of Victoria, capital of British Columbia, located near the southern tip of Vancouver Island, which is nearly 300 miles long and about 50 miles across at its widest point.
In February and March, Oak Bay conducted a highly "covert" operation in which it trapped deer in "Clover traps": collapsible frameworks covered with net mesh. A deer entering the trap triggers the door to drop as he or she starts to eat the bait. The traps are set in the evening and checked by the cull contractor early in the morning to avoid public scrutiny. Once the cull contractors arrive, one of them collapses the trap and sits on the panicked, struggling deer while the other grabs the animal's head, presses a captive bolt pistol to the skull, and discharges a metal bolt into the animal's brain.
Researchers believe that this method causes suffering, as was explained to the mayor.
It appears that most Oak Bay residents are not bothered much, if at all, by the deer — and many enjoy them. All agree that more might be done to reduce the already-small incidence of cars hitting deer, but most of those occur in one area where mitigating factors could be implemented (as was done in Ottawa with significant success). But, no; the mayor's response to such concerns ranged from killing to ... killing.
Other concerns? One was that elderly people were afraid to walk the streets at night for fear of, well, deer attack. (No, they really weren't — and they said so.) Another concern was about deer eating garden plants. Looking at the lush greenery of Oak Bay, boasting the most luxurious gardens in Canada, and thinking of the expanse of snow covering my own garden back home in Ontario, the concern seems laughable. Deer in Victoria, like snow in Toronto, are part of the environment (except that, in Victoria, you can grow so much more, and even year-round). We saw no browse lines and no depleted cedar or other signs of a large population of deer.
And, why 25? No one knows how many deer are in that region, let alone how many deaths it would take to satisfy the unknown number of complainers (very few, judging from what documentation we were able to access). But, 25 was apparently the number the council felt it could afford to kill. No one explained why that number would stop those complaints that so bothered the mayor. In fact, as we also explained, culling deer tends not to reduce population numbers. In Helena, Montana, they've been culling them for a decade without resolving whatever the concerns may be. In Cranbrook, in central British Columbia, there was a dramatic increase in "aggressive" deer following culling (although it has to be said that Cranbrook's council did not define what was meant by "aggressive" and has done nothing to teach folks about co-existing peacefully with the deer). It's impossible, using Clover traps and bolt guns, to remove what few deer, if any, might be the ones who have frightened people. Since fawns stay with, and learn from, their mothers for close to a full year, it's also impossible to know how many of the seven does who were killed in Oak Bay left orphaned young.
The Oak Bay residents I talked to, including many store clerks and service staff, were not only against the cull, but of the opinion that the $220,000 spent by the Capital Regional District and the more than $30,000 spent by Oak Bay could better serve the broader communities. But, that is of no obvious concern to the mayor. He is apparently happy that 11 deer died miserably, and Oak Bay citizens discovered that their government is not as democratically transparent as they might have thought.
But, it's not over. Mayor Jensen wants to keep on killing and keep up the secrecy. Increasingly, though, the good folks of Oak Bay are learning what kind of mayor he is. And, as any Torontonian can tell you, bad mayors and their policies don't last.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Voices Carry

Thank you to all the Oak Bay residents, and residents from surrounding communities, who came out during an extremely trying time while the council commenced with their deer cull in February/March. You raised your voices every way you could think of; appealing for scientific research, writing and presenting to councils and board members, even walking the streets of Oak Bay day and night looking for signs of those who were creeping around in secrecy.

Mayor Jensen announced that seven bucks and four does lost their lives over a sixteen day period. When he went to the media to declare the cull a success, he could not contain his obvious glee that the public was not able to observe this carefully planned kill.

We have learned that the pilot in Oak Bay was initiated to conduct a cull in a densely urbanized area without detection. Staff time (“not cheap” according to Mayor Jensen) was spent carefully selecting properties, not based on complaints, but on the ability to keep the “euthanasia” of problem wildlife a carefully guarded secret.

We will not accept any more of these killings in our communities. DeerSafe is here to support the many residents of the Capital Regional District who insist on scientific evidence of an urban deer overpopulation and non-lethal human/deer mitigation. We cannot be shouted down just because the loudest voice has the ability to snuff out innocent lives.

We are not going away. Voices carry.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

No plans for Nanaimo to follow Oak Bay with cull to control deer

Darrel Bellaart, Daily News

There are no immediate plans to cull deer to control Nanaimo herd populations, now that Oak Bay has conducted the first community deer cull in B.C. Eleven deer were killed over 16 days in February, fewer than half the original target of 25, but the mayor declared the cull a success.
Neither Mayor Bill McKay, nor Leon Davis, Nanaimo SPCA shelter manager, see a cull as something needed for Nanaimo, following the trial.
McKay questioned the benefits of a cull that cost the Capital Regional District $150,000, and "all that pain, for only 11" deer.
"I know a lot of people in Nanaimo are really concerned about deer, particularly on roads and in their neighbourhood," said McKay.
"I think if we were going to even consider it in Nanaimo, I would like to see some pretty indepth studies, with the BC SPCA and with Deersafe."
The Oak Bay cull was to reduce vehicle collisions with deer.
In 2012, the number of deer struck by vehicles averaged one a day.
Since then, the numbers have fallen steadily, with 300 deer carcasses collected in 2013, and 260 last year, said Sue Hughes of Coastal Animal Services, the contractor.
Davis said before even considering a cull, a "comprehensive study" is needed.
Conservation Officer Stuart Bates said a cull is "not for me to decide," but said Nanaimo's urban deer population does appear to be dwindling.
"We've seen a little decline in the numbers we get called for - usually old deer or last year's fawns," Bates said.
Part of it may be increased predators, but deer feeding also seems to be down in Nanaimo, "which results in fewer motor vehicle collisions," Bates said.
Seven bucks and four does were trapped and killed in Oak Bay.
"There's nothing been learned from this, and no evidence this will solve the problem," Davis said. "When you trap a deer, they panic."

Oak Bay’s ‘quite successful’ deer-cull toll 11, Mayor Jensen says

A deer cull in Oak Bay has been completed with 11 deer killed, said Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen.
The mayor announced this morning that the controversial cull was completed at the end of February with 11 deer — seven bucks and four does — killed.
I see it as quite successful in that just under two weeks we were able to capture and euthanize 11 deer,” Jensen said.
The mayor credited the success of the program to residents who offered their properties to place traps, city staff and the contractor Ron Kerr.
The cull is part of a $150,000 Capital Regional District deer-management pilot project.
Oak Bay volunteered to be the first municipality to run the pilot program. Oak Bay’s share of that $150,000 is capped at $15,000.
This is a pilot project so part of the reason to go through this was to see can this be done in a densely populated urban community and how can it be done,” Jensen said.
After deer advocates asked people to come forward if they saw traps, several property owners volunteered their properties for the pilot project. “We’re grateful for the residents who offered up their yards and homes,” Jensen said.
A report will be given to the CRD at the end of March. It will go through the planning and protective services committee and then to the CRD board. A report will also go to Oak Bay.
Oak Bay’s “learning experience” with the pilot project can now be used to inform other municipalities in the CRD, Jensen said.
One lesson learned, Jensen said, was that it was more difficult to attract deer given the greater abundance of food sources in a coastal climate which was compounded by an early spring, Jensen said.
By the time the municipality had its permit and contract in place, it was February and the contractor had just 16 days to carry out the cull.
The cull period is set by the province based on the birthing and gestation cycles of deer, Jensen said. White-tail fawns are born in late spring.
The permit allowed for a cull of 25 deer.
If it was run over three months we would have easily been able to achieve 25 deer,” Jensen said.
Oak Bay’s mayor never expected 25 deer to be caught over the two-week period or that that number would bring the deer population in Oak Bay down to what he views as a manageable or historic number.
Meanwhile, an urban deer cull in Cranbrook stopped suddenly March 6 after four traps on private property were vandalized a day earlier and rendered useless.
Oak Bay cull opponent Kristy Kilpatrick said there was “zero suggestion” of vandalizing traps in Oak Bay.
People just want to know that the deer have a witness and are frustrated that if, as the provincial vet and the mayor and CAO [chief administrative officer] of Oak Bay have said, the procedure is humane, why this is all so shrouded in secrecy.”
Oak Bay’s cull contract specifies that the traps, roughly the size of a double hockey net, must be checked for deer every 24 hours and baited every evening.
Oak Bay’s mayor said the contractor in charge of the cull is an expert who has been cited by the BC SPCA for his good work.
Some residents and deer advocates also expressed concern about the lack of news about the cull but Jensen said this was to maintain safety and order around the cull.
DeerSafe sent out more than 5,600 notices to Oak Bay and area households asking to be notified of any evidence of the deer cull so they could make a video recording.

- with files from Katherine Dedyna

Friday, March 6, 2015

Vandalism ends deer cull in Cranbrook

Posted: March 6, 2015
City will apply for additional Wildlife Permit for the fall
Vandalism of four provincially owned clover traps overnight Thursday has resulted in the City of Cranbrook ending this spring’s urban deer population reduction program ahead of schedule.
A clover trap, similar to the vandalized devices in Cranbrook.
A clover trap, similar to the vandalized devices in Cranbrook.
Around 5:30 a.m. Friday morning, city contractors making their early morning rounds discovered the four traps had the netting slashed making them unusable. All of the traps were located on private property. Cranbrook RCMP was immediately notified and an investigation is underway.
“We have decided to halt the cull,” said City of Cranbrook Mayor Lee Pratt. “We are 100% behind the RCMP and fully support their investigation. If the results of the investigation warrant, we will pursue criminal or civil action against those responsible.”
The program began on Sunday, February 22, with the setup and baiting of traps and concluded overnight Thursday, March 5, with a total of four mule deer being captured and euthanized over an approximate 11-day trapping period.
The breakdown of the mule deer captured is as follows: one adult buck and three adult does.
Although there was provision in the Wildlife Permit to capture and euthanize both mule deer and incidental whitetail deer, the contractor was instructed by the city and the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (MFLNRO) to release any captured whitetail deer, if it was deemed safe to do so, for both the deer and the contractor.
Two whitetail deer, one buck and one doe, were captured during the program. Both were released by the contractors unharmed.
The Wildlife Permit was issued to the City of Cranbrook on October 7, 2014 by the MFLNRO, was valid from December 1, 2014 and expires on March 15.
All of the mule deer were processed and the meat distributed to three local organizations to be used for human consumption. This process was clearly identified in the guidelines embedded in the Wildlife Permit provided by MFLNRO. All meat preparation was conducted by a qualified local butcher and processed in a facility inspected and approved by both Interior Health and MFLNRO, the city reported today (March 6).
The specific zones of the city to be targeted for the population reduction program were approved by resolution of council. That recommendation was based on complaints received by city staff from the public in 2014 along with the results of the urban deer population count conducted in December 2014.
The locations of the traps were determined by city staff based on this information along with complaints received by the provincial toll-free Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) line and priority areas identified by the Conservation Officer Service in 2014.
The cull results indicate to staff that the clover traps were placed in the best strategic locations possible to minimize the chances of capturing whitetail deer, the city noted.
Two individuals/companies, who had previously approached the City of Cranbrook interested in conducting the cull program, were invited to submit a quote for service in February.
The contract was awarded by resolution of council with the approved budget of $12,750. The program will be well below budget.
The city is waiting on the final invoice from the contractor. Built into the cost per animal includes: placement and tear down of each clover trap, purchase of bait and supplies, liability insurance, provincially mandated equipment training, mileage, vehicle cleaning; processing, packaging and distribution of the meat and all associated contractor administration costs.
“We will be working with the province to determine the best method to continue to reduce the local urban deer population,” stated Mayor Pratt. “We still believe there is a strong public safety issue, so whether it will be a cull or relocation — we will be applying for another permit for this fall.”
The city is also working with the City of Kimberley, District of Elkford and District of Invermere on trying to create a relocation program, not as an alternative to culls but to determine the viability moving forward.
An anti deer cull demonstration was staged outside Cranbrook city hall on March 4.
This is not the first time clover traps have been vandalized during culls in the region, as both Invermere and Kimberley have experienced incidents in the past two years.