Monday, January 9, 2017

Urban deer a problem, councillors say, but it’s not Victoria’s to solve

Bill Cleverley / Times Colonist
January 7, 2017 12:01 AM

Victoria city councillors say wildlife is a provincial responsibility — not a municipal one.   Photograph By BRUCE STOTESBURY, Times Colonist

Victoria councillors acknowledge that urban deer might be becoming an issue in the city — but they don’t want to be the ones who deal with it.

Councillors agreed this week to have staff report back on the efforts by the provincial government, neighbouring municipalities and the Capital Regional District on urban deer management and to determine the magnitude of the issue.

But they stopped short of having them offer any solutions to deal with deer, agreeing that wildlife is a provincial responsibility — not a municipal one.

“If we’re not going to take on this job, why would we suggest solutions?” said Coun. Margaret Lucas.

“I think this is our issue, but the solution is not ours. I think we have to be very, very careful that we don’t take on a provincial issue. We don’t have the money. Staff don’t have the expertise.”

Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe brought up the topic during a review of the strategic plan.

“I’m noticing and I’m hearing that there are deer in the City of Victoria and we’re getting concerns from our citizens that something needs to be done,” Thornton-Joe told councillors.

“I’m not saying the City of Victoria has to do it nor fund it, but I don’t think we can just turn a blind eye that the issue does exist.”

Other councillors agreed, but weren’t willing to take the lead on something that they said the province should be handling.

“I just don’t want the City of Victoria to get at the front of the deer loop and be the only one taking action,” Coun. Jeremy Loveday said.

“I do think that if action is being taken — and I happen to think that something needs to be done — it does need to be done regionally. You’ve seen by efforts in other municipalities that it doesn’t work if you go it alone.”

Mayor Lisa Helps said she would be happy to get a report.

“I’m not happy to spend one cent on deer management. It is a provincial responsibility. Wildlife is a provincial responsibility. It always has been [and] until something changes it will be,” she said.

“I don’t think we need to ask our staff to start looking at solutions. But if we can make a strong case to the province — Oak Bay has a strong case [and] Esquimalt will be doing some of this work, from what I understand — then collectively we can go to the province and say: ‘We’ve done the research and let’s work together on solutions.’ ”

Resident frustrations with urban deer are percolating throughout the region, but communities are divided on what actions to take.

In a move that divided the community and sparked protests, Oak Bay in 2015 conducted a cull, trapping and killing 11 deer.

Late last year, Oak Bay asked the province to match funds up to $20,000, allowing the municipality to partner with the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society to run a deer-contraception program.

The province turned down the request, saying it wanted more research done.
A recent survey of Esquimalt residents found a majority are willing to pay higher taxes to fund a deer-management program.