Citizens’ group wants non-lethal solution to Greater Victoria deer problem

DeerSafe Victoria approaching Capital Regional District about joining discussions

Scenes like this are becoming more common in Oak Bay and elsewhere around the Capital Region. One citizen's group wants to have a say on deer management strategies for Greater Victoria.

As the discussion about urban deer in the Capital Region heats up, some area residents are asking to be a part of the problem-solving process.

In a letter to the Capital Regional District board last week, members of DeerSafe Victoria asked that they be included in any CRD deer management subcommittee that may form.

Though there has been plenty of attention paid to frustrated residents who support a cull, members of DeerSafe feel that the voices of those who want a more humane solution haven’t been given as much coverage.

“We acknowledge the issues, but we know that there are non-lethal ways of dealing with these so-called pest animals,” said Kelly Carson, one of the group’s founding members.

DeerSafe is not a group of “tree huggers” who simply think the deer should be left alone, she said. “We’re just all working together for a common goal, and that’s to find a long-term, sustainable solution.”

Of particular concern to the group is the potential use of Clover traps and bolt guns to capture and trap and get rid of the deer, a measure taken in communities like Cranbrook and Kimberley.

“(The city claims) it’s humane, yet they won’t let the SPCA come in and observe it,” Carson said. “That’s a really big concern for us.”

Instead, she said, the CRD should be looking at things such as improved fencing, wildlife corridors, immuno-contraceptives to control local deer reproduction rates, and increased citizen education.

“One of the biggest problems for deer entering urban areas is that people feed them. There needs to be a large education component to deer management going into the future.”

That sentiment is echoed by one of DeerSafe’s allies.

“In virtually every situation where there is conflict (over deer), and people are complaining, it’s because somebody, or a number of people are actively feeding the animals,” said Liz White, a founding member of the Ottawa-based Animal Alliance of Canada.

White, who has been involved in similar situations across Canada, most recently in London, Ont., said eliminating the active feeders and erecting proper fencing are the best strategies for reducing the problems caused by urban deer.

But taking an even-handed approach is key, she added.

“If we can begin to look at the situation from a less politically charged position, then I think we can have some rational discussions about how to resolve it.”

Bolt guns should not be a part of that discussion, she added. “Veterinarians everywhere – Australia, Britain, the United States – every single one says that if you use a penetrating captive bolt gun, there is no guarantee that the animals are going to die immediately.”

DeerSafe members have asked to speak at the next meeting of the CRD’s planning, transportation and protective services committee, which takes place Feb. 22.

The committee’s chair, Metchosin Mayor John Ranns, said that although there is no deer management subcommittee yet, he would be happy to have input from residents.

“I would certainly welcome anyone that could come up with a non-lethal solution, because I still have my doubts about what’s acceptable in urban areas,” he said.

White plans to attend the meeting and hopes to spend a couple days beforehand touring the area and getting a feel for where the problem spots are.

She promises that if the CRD decides to go ahead with a cull, she will be back.

“We’ll bring a camera and show people what a truck full of deer with their brains bashed in looks like.”

reporter@vicnews.com

Tools of the trade

• A Clover trap, named for its inventor from the 1950s, is essentially a steel-framed rectangular cage, sometimes covered with strong netting. Bait is placed at the rear of the cage, and for the deer to get it, it engages a trip line which shuts the door and prevents it from escaping.

• A bolt gun is frequently used in slaughterhouses to stun animals prior to slaughter. They are available in penetrating or non-penetrating varieties.

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