Deer cull planned for Oak Bay

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Oak Bay Municipal Council has approved participation in a Capital Regional District (CRD) pilot project that would result in the trapping and killing of 25 deer in the municipality. The project, at a cost of $12 500 (or $500 per deer), comes after complaints from concerned residents about “damage to residential gardens, car accidents, and habituation.” This is according to an opposition group’s pamphlets titled, “Living With Deer: Your Guide to coexistence with wildlife in Oak Bay.” The group distributed 5 000  of the pamphlets over two separate weekends, aiming to supply every resident in the municipality.

The pamphlet contains information under such headings as “What is Happening?” “Why Should You Care?” “About Wildlife Culls,” “Looking Forward,” and “Solutions for Coexisting With Deer.” In an email, Dave Shishkoff (Canadian correspondent for Friends of Animals) writes, “Our goal is to educate Oak Bay residents, and enable them to coexist peacefully with deer.”

According to the pamphlet, when people feed the deer it encourages the deer to keep coming back, and eventually they begin to rely on an unreliable food source. It is against the law to feed deer in Oak Bay, and the pamphlet says to report sightings of people feeding deer. Oak Bay council voted in February to increase deer feeding fines to $300 for first offence and $500 for repeat offenders.

One concern about the proposed cull plan is that it may have no significant long-term effect. The pamphlet says that by removing deer from the area, “there’s less competition for food and space, and deer from surrounding territories can move in.” Also in the pamphlet, highlighted and in bold, is the statement, “The truth is no one knows how many deer live in Oak Bay.” Deer may move into adjacent municipalities, and Friends of Animals suggests there’s no baseline to compare numbers before and after a cull. This uncertainty may raise ethical issues and undermine opposition groups’ perception of justification for the proposed plan.

Friends of Animals is also among those questioning the method that would be used to kill the deer. The group’s pamphlet says traps would be set up around the municipality, and once a deer had been caught, a person would use a captive bolt gun (the same tool used in slaughterhouses for pigs and cows) to knock the deer unconscious and then cut the deers’ throats to let them bleed out. The pamphlet reads, “Although a legal method of killing, only experienced wildlife personnel are capable of doing this correctly, and there’s always a chance for error.”

A frequently asked questions document on Oak Bay’s participation in the CRD Regional Deer Management Strategy says, “Population reduction is only one component of a deer management strategy. When dealing with an overabundance of deer in an area where there are no natural predators, there needs to be a mechanism to reduce the population to more manageable numbers. Population reduction programs can be ongoing—an initial reduction phase followed by a maintenance phase after localized population densities have been reduced.”

As the plan would be publicly funded, Friends of Animals says in its pamphlet, “a better investment of money and time exists, and coupled with an attitude of respect for wildlife, we can all coexist peacefully.”

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