Sunday, July 23, 2017

Victoria to seek outside funding for deer control

Photograph By BRUCE STOTESBURY, Times Colonist

Victoria will call on both the province and the Capital Regional District to take a more active role in deer management in the city.
Councillors agreed Thursday to have the mayor write to the premier and to the CRD about the issue. However, they stopped short of allocating any funding in next year’s budget to deer management.
Instead, they directed staff to search for funding opportunities through the province or the CRD to work with the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society to undertake deer-population counts and perhaps have staff do opinion surveys and keep track of the impact of deer. If no external funding can be found, they are to report back to council.
Coun. Charlayne Thornton Joe, who proposed the motion, said the deer issue has to be looked at with a provincial or regional lens.
“I still feel we need to be looking at this larger than municipality to municipality,” Thornton Joe said.
Culling “really doesn’t work [because] when the population is reduced, other deer will come in to replace the deer that have been culled,” she said.
“So if they’re only doing in it one municipality, unless we teach the deer to read, and say ‘no deer allowed in Victoria,’ no municipality is going to be able to catch up.”
Before any deer-management program such as contraception or culling is even considered, the first thing that has to be done is determine the extent of the problem, what neighbourhoods are most affected and the extent of the impact, she said.
“So do we have 30 deer in Fairfield or do we have five deer and everybody is seeing the same deer all the same time?” Thornton-Joe said. “Apparently deer are pretty good at keeping usual routes, and groups like the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society are well educated and counting what trails those routes may be.”
While there is anecdotal evidence that conflicts with deer are on the increase, the extent of the deer situation in the city is really an unknown, city clerk Chris Coates told councillors.
Coun. Marianne Alto said deer are primarily a provincial responsibility. “But I do think that, ultimately, we’ve set a precedent in a number of areas about looking at what the city can do to have some kind of an impact on the local effect of larger problems,” she said.
“This is not going away. I’m not at all convinced on what the way forward is, so I do support this from the perspective of finding out what the baseline is.”
Mayor Lisa Helps supported undertaking the work, but said it shouldn’t be funded through property-tax dollars.
“We only get eight cents of every tax dollar and I don’t think we should be spending property-tax dollars [on the deer initiative]. I do think we will be able to find funding either through this new government or some other means,” Helps said.
Victoria’s appeal to the CRD might not go far. In 2015 CRD directors agreed the region should take only a limited role in deer management.
Oak Bay has been a local leader in trying to deal with deer. In a controversial move, Oak Bay conducted a cull in 2015 that cost $270,000 and saw 11 deer killed over a two-week period.
This year, Oak Bay was awarded a $20,000 grant that it plans to match to radio-collar up to 20 deer and install motion-activated video cameras on trails frequented by deer. The program will be undertaken in partnership with the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society.
Esquimalt conducted a survey last year to gather residents’ views regarding deer and is planning a population count of the animals next year.

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