Thursday, July 23, 2015

CRD directors vote to leave deer management to municipalities

A young buck stops for a quick snack on Rockland Avenue.   Photograph By BRUCE STOTESBURY, Times Colonist

Capital Regional District directors agreed Wednesday the CRD should take only a limited role in deer management.
And some directors encouraged representatives of a citizens group looking to sterilize urban deer — rather than see them culled — to formally apply for CRD funding.
Members of the planning, transportation and protective services committee agreed with staff recommendations that the CRD not start a new service to manage deer and instead limit its role to sharing lessons learned from a pilot deer-management program conducted over the past two years.
Prior to committee discussions, representatives of the newly formed Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society talked of their plans to capture, tag and release deer in Oak Bay and to sterilize 25 does with the contraceptive vaccine SpayVac.
They asked the CRD for $35,000 in funding but were told they would have to make a formal application to the board. Society president Bryan Gates said Oak Bay agreed this week to contribute $5,000 to the sterilization pilot program in that community.
We will trap, vaccinate, tag and release all deer. Both males and females will be caught and tagged but only females, of course, will be vaccinated,” Gates said.
Another goal is long-term effectiveness.” The group also wants to collect information on population sizes, makeup and trends, habitat use and movement, he said.
Metchosin Mayor John Ranns, said that, as a farmer, he’s tried everything from shooting to fencing to deal with deer and the SpayVac pilot seems like it might work.
In terms of the urban environment, which is entirely different from the rural environment, I believe this is a very good pilot project,” Ranns said. “I think, from my experience in living with deer on a day-to-day basis, that that probably has the best chance of success of anything I’ve seen other than fencing.”
Saanich Coun. Vic Derman supported the plan to gather information.
I would agree if we are going to intelligently attempt to manage deer, we absolutely have to start out with being able to survey, identify and enumerate the population and then track what happens to that population over time,” Derman said.
Once you have identified the population and are able to track it, then you can evaluate the success of any attempts to manage that population.”
CRD staff say no municipality has approached the regional district asking it to take an ongoing role in deer management, and many of the tasks associated with deer management — such as determining deer management options, selecting trap sites and managing contracts — can be undertaken only by municipalities.
Since 2013, the CRD and Oak Bay have spent a combined $270,000 for two deer-management pilot projects — one in Central Saanich and one in Oak Bay.
Oak Bay has conducted a cull, which prompted protests and saw 11 deer killed over 16 days. Traps were set up on private property and the deer were killed with a bolt gun. First Nations were offered the killed deer.
In the rural pilot project, 16 farms were visited by the CRD for crop-damage inspection. Staff provided information on fencing, municipal permits, firearms licences and use of scaring and hazing tactics. The CRD did not say how many rural deer were culled.

Monday, July 20, 2015

COLUMN: Controlling deer comes with little help from B.C.

by Kevin Laird - Sooke News Mirror

posted Jul 15, 2015 at 10:00 AM

You either love ’em or hate ’em. Feed ’em or haze ’em.
Urban deer are making their mark in Sooke’s city core.
The ungulates feed themselves on anything that is green and colourful.
And depending on what side of the fence you’re on, they’re either magnificent animals or beasts.
The problem is municipalities have concerns with them too, and can do little to control them.
B.C. SPCA chief scientific officer Sara Dubois points out local governments have been tasked to deal with complex management issues that should be under the mandate of the provincial government.
Those problems have been handed down without the province providing resources, experience or expertise.
The Union of B.C. Municipalities, a lobby group for municipalities, even got into the act by asking the province to create a strategy for municipalities. The province complied and came with a number of options that municipalities could use, but asked those same municipalities to implement it.
The only problem is there is no verification module. For instance, if a municipality wants to conduct a deer cull, it would need to set up a committee, get community input, possibly change bylaws, do a deer count, but when the time came to do the kill and obtain a permit, the province doesn’t do due diligence to see if all has been done correctly.
Remember, under the B.C. Wildlife Act, the province “owns” all wildlife in the province.
One would think somewhere along the line their would be some accountability.
Recent culls across the province have had less than good success. In Oak Bay, with no measured deer overpopulation and no survey of community residents, the cull went ahead. After considerable opposition, 11 deer were killed without learning the local deer population or its movement. And in Elkford after the removal of 39 mule deer, the municipality is now struggling to address an unforeseen ungulate issue – elk have now moved into the habitat previously occupied by the mule deer.
These are trends that can be seen over and over again across B.C. where culls have been conducted.
The province needs to look at this method of disposing of “unwanted” animals in a more humane and logical way. To replace one problem with another is not the answer.
Municipalities need more guidance and expertise. After all, urban wildlife management issues aren’t going away, and certainly won’t take care of themselves.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Who Decides Who Lives or Dies – BC Wildlife

The recent suspension of Conservation Officer Bryce Casavant for refusing to kill two 8-week old bear cubs, despite orders from his supervisor and the provincial veterinarian, has revealed to British Columbians the extent of this government's policy to destroy our wildlife based solely upon complaints from the public. On the strength of a citizen's phone call the provincial veterinarian in Victoria ordered the destruction of a nursing sow and her cubs near Port Hardy, ignoring the professional opinion of the CO.

This event unfolded as the Port Hardy region was engulfed in forest fires. Photo credit, Steve Kendall.

In the fall of 2013 the story of a friendly buck named John Deer turned to tragedy when the province ordered him “humanely euthanized” near Vernon, B.C. “Provincial wildlife veterinarian Helen Schwantje says the docile deer was believed to be the same one that tangled its antlers in a child’s backpack...” National Post, Tristin Hopper, September 12, 2013.

In the same article Liz White of Animal Alliance of Canada “criticized wildlife authorities for being too quick to turn rifles on questionable deer, particularly when it could have been enough to simply “haze” the deer out of town.”  Hazing is the use of trained border collies to gently pressure ungulates out of areas where they are not welcome, a useful strategy for interior towns that are surrounded by forest.  To date only one pilot project for hazing was conducted in Kimberley, BC when the province permitted a one day trial.

All that is needed to order the destruction of nuisance wildlife is the belief that they have crossed an imaginary line of urban etiquette – referred to in ministry language as “public safety.”

When the public expresses outrage at the killing of our wildlife, be it by systematic culls or by the destruction of individual animals, those opinions are brushed aside as sentimentality.  Annoyance and fear are the only emotions that the province will respond to – with lethal results.

Advertisements on the MFLNRO website's document Hunting and Trapping Regulations Synopsis are a shocking eye-opener into the business of animal slaughter and the attitudes of this government towards our resources – affectionately known to the public as "our wildlife."

The ministries responsible for our wildlife have an agenda, and it's not stewardship.