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Research trail continues into Oak Bay deer trial

Application for provincial grant could fund half the next phase analyzing population data
A deer stops for lunch near the community gardens in Oak Bay. Council recently supported the latest provincial grant application for deer management research in the community. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)

Oak Bay plans to stay on the path with its deer trial to manage the population in the community. Council agreed to support the latest grant application for the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society and kick in its portion of the funds.

The application could mean a grant of up to $37,906 – significantly more than the program’s $20,000 cap – to continue with deer management research in the community. The total project budget is estimated at $75,956 with about half funded through grants. Oak Bay’s share is anticipated to be around $38,050.

The project started in 2017 with researchers determining an estimated population, habitat preferences, distribution and movement patterns. A camera trap array was installed in 2018 – and continues still – monitoring the deer population to learn how the population as a whole is responding to the trial.

A wildlife veterinarian began dosing female deer with immunocontraceptives in 2019. That work continued in 2020 and 2021 including booster shots. The work paused this year.

During its Nov. 14 meeting, council heard that comparing 2018 data to the most recent information shows a 57 per cent reduction in what the scientists call fawn relative abundance.

RELATED: Oak Bay still seeks long-term deer management plan

UWSS does not plan to dose does with immunocontraceptives next year, but continue the pause in treatment to analyze and report on deer population response to the prior birth control vaccination by modelling population density and relative fawn abundance for 2021 and 2022. UWSS would also collect another year of data in fall 2023 to evaluate how the population is responding.

A member of the public asked council whether the work done by the stewardship society is vetted or peer reviewed. Lead scientist Jason Fisher explained the analytical work is a partnership between UWSS and the University of Victoria. UVic does the data analysis and then hands it back to the stewardship organization, meaning the work goes through the standard UVic processes as well as from the province. The partnership also shared research during an international conference on wildlife fertility control in Colorado earlier this year.

“This project is a leading project not only locally … nationally and internationally now,” noted Coun. Cairine Green. “Oak Bay should realize it is on the international map now as a leader in this area.”

Coun. Hazel Braithwaite was the lone opposition to the funding application.

“I really feel that I need to speak for those people who are really struggling with what’s happening in our community,” she said, making note of the number of animals, and the moves residents are suggested to make in order to protect themselves during specific seasons.

RELATED: Oak Bay bucks lock antlers in battle for mating dominance

“I really feel this is the province’s problem,” she said, adding the province should fund it fully.

To date, the deer management research project has cost $331,238, with the province covering $186,276 or 56 per cent and the district funding the rest.

In response to Braithwaite’s question on when 2022 data might come in, council heard the researchers just received about 50,000 images from the camera array for the month of September that need to be manually catalogued, fed into the data frame and analyzed.

Find the full report on the Nov. 14 agenda at

Council also made a plan to invite UWSS back in June 2023 to provide an update.


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Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

Longtime journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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