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LETTER: Fallow deer important to Sidney Island

The recent article in the Peninsula News Review on Sidney Island’s fallow deer population had a number of errors. Sidney Island is basically a tree farm of Douglas and grand fir. Uncontrolled deer population before 2005 caused further reduction of biodiversity.

From 2005 until present the deer population has been reduced by 90 per cent to its current number of approximately 300 (after spring fawning) and will require an annual 100 animal harvest to keep a stable balance.

Fallow deer were not introduced to Sidney Island, they were brought over from England to James Island for sport hunting, and in the 1960s swam over to Sidney Island. Because there was no standing water (lakes or ponds) blacktail deer were never part of the ecosystem but were supposedly introduced. Although they are an indigenous species on the west coast, they were not on Sidney Island, so were not part of indigenous hunting.

Our island does not have a deer problem, both Oak Bay, Mayne Island and many other communities do. Fallow deer are a valuable and a desired source of animal protein; food security is important to us. We have a vibrant hunting community and every year we get new hunters, young and old, joining us. If we eradicate our fallow deer we will lose our hunting community and, within a decade, have a blacktail deer problem.

Sidney Island is unlike any other Gulf Island or coastal community and is in an enviable position with 1,500 acres of common property to safely manage both species of deer. We have always had many birds of prey, but after our 15 years of deer management we now have a plethora of songbirds and bees and a resurgence of once-thought wiped-out plant species.

Frank Nielsen

Sidney Island