The other side of the deer problem in Greater Victoria

Situation ‘critical’ for Capital Region food producers

One voice has risen above the others in the discussion on deer in the Capital Region.

Until recently, much of the debate over what to do about increasing deer-human conflict has focused on urban areas. But several South Island farmers made it known last week they are in a dire situation of their own, and that they feel the time for talk is over.

“It’s just out of control,” said Ray Galey, owner of Galey Farms in Saanich. “There isn’t any farmer who’s not an environmentalist, but (even though) we all love Bambi, we don’t need 10,000 of them.”

Deer have eaten more of his crops each year, he said, to the point where he’s “given up on the whole point of sustainability.”

In addition, Galey said he’s cutting the amount of farmed acreage back by close to 30 per cent this year as a result. “You can’t have that kind of damage and have anything left for yourself.”

Last week, the Capital Regional District’s planning, transportation and protective services committee recommended that a citizens’ advisory group be formed to devise a regional deer management strategy. Committee members acknowledged the urgent need for action in rural areas.

“There are agricultural and urban aspects of this problem,” said committee vice-chair Vic Derman. “But in the case of the farmers, they’re facing a critical situation.”

Derman’s motion to form two separate groups – one focusing on agricultural concerns, the other on urban deer – was defeated. Nonetheless, the advisory group will be directed to make finding a solution for farmers its top priority.

Some people aren’t sure that’s enough.

“I can’t see how those two issues can be dealt with under the same roof,” said Kelly Carson, a member of DeerSafe Victoria, which is calling for a non-lethal course of action.

While she is pleased to see the CRD seeking citizen input on the issue, Carson is worried about the advisory group’s demographic distribution – area farmers will fill three of the 12 spots.

“(Given) the population of Saanich, how many farmers per capita (are there) in all of Saanich, and why would one person with a small business speak for the rest of the community?” she asked.

Derman hopes that every member of the group will approach the matter objectively.

“We want people (chosen for) the committee almost like in a jury selection,” he said. “They haven’t made up their mind and are willing to consider the information and input from all stakeholders.”

The citizens’ advisory group will include five members from the CRD’s core municipalities, four from the Saanich Peninsula and two from the West Shore, as well as a chair appointed from within.

In addition, an expert resource working group will be established to advise on various biological and policy implications of any potential strategy.

The group will be asked to make recommendations to the CRD board by the end of July.

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