COLUMN: Solution could come with a little help from B.C.

Dealing with urban deer is not just a municipal problem

You either love ’em or hate ’em. Feed ’em or haze ’em.

Urban deer are making their mark in Sooke’s city core.

The ungulates feed themselves on anything that is green and colourful.

And depending on what side of the fence you’re on, they’re either magnificent animals or beasts.

The problem is municipalities have concerns with them too, and can do little to control them.

B.C. SPCA chief scientific officer Sara Dubois points out local governments have been tasked to deal with complex management issues that should be under the mandate of the provincial government.

Those problems have been handed down without the province providing resources, experience or expertise.

The Union of B.C. Municipalities, a lobby group for municipalities, even got into the act by asking the province to create a strategy for municipalities. The province complied and came with a number of options that municipalities could use, but asked those same municipalities to implement it.

The only problem is there is no verification module. For instance, if a municipality wants to conduct a deer cull, it would need to set up a committee, get community input, possibly change bylaws, do a deer count, but when the time came to do the kill and obtain a permit, the province doesn’t do due diligence to see if all has been done correctly.

Remember, under the B.C. Wildlife Act, the province “owns” all wildlife in the province.

One would think somewhere along the line their would be some accountability.

Recent culls across the province have had less than good success. In Oak Bay, with no measured deer overpopulation and no survey of community residents, the cull went ahead. After considerable opposition, 11 deer were killed without learning the local deer population or its movement. And in Elkford after the removal of 39 mule deer, the municipality is now struggling to address an unforeseen ungulate issue – elk have now moved into the habitat previously occupied by the mule deer.

These are trends that can be seen over and over again across B.C. where culls have been conducted.

The province needs to look at this method of disposing of “unwanted” animals in a more humane and logical way. To replace one problem with another is not the answer.

Municipalities need more guidance and expertise. After all, urban wildlife management issues aren’t going away, and certainly won’t take care of themselves.

•••

Kevin Laird is editor of the Sooke News Mirror. He can be reached by email at klaird@blackpress.ca or by phone at 250-642-5752.

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