Provincial ministry confirms: province has no legal responsibility for managing urban deer. Comox Valley elected officials ignore problem while Oak Bay and Haida Gwaii take action
[dropcap}Q[/dropcap]uestion: What do the City of Oak Bay and the islands of Haida Gwaii NOT have in common with the Comox Valley?
Answer: They have recognized the problems caused by an excessive quantity of deer and have taken actions to reduce their deer populations.
The Comox Valley has done nothing.
Meanwhile, the federal government will spend $5.7 million over the next three years on a program that will eradicate deer from six islands in Haida Gwaii, and
Oak Bay will spend $40,000 on an experimental program to put some of its urban deer on birth control.
But Comox Valley governments have allowed their urban deer populations to expand, partly because elected officials cling to the erroneous notion that managing the animals is a provincial responsibility.
A Comox Valley Regional District representative has told Decafnation that deer are a provincial problem, and Comox Mayor Paul Ives repeated this misinformation on Facebook recently.
So Decafnation contacted the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Resource Operations and Rural Development. Here’s what they said:
“According to section 2 (1) and 2 (5) of the Wildlife Act, all wildlife is owned by the government, but no right of action or compensation exists against the province for death, personal injury or property damage,” a ministry representative wrote via email.
“So, while the province owns the deer, it has no legal responsibility for managing urban deer populations toward objectives established by local governments.”
But the province encourages local governments to develop detailed deer management plans, and it partners with local governments to facilitate and develop socially acceptable urban deer management solutions.
If any Comox Valley municipality developed a deer management strategy the province would provide technical advice, regulatory authority, necessary permits, specialized equipment and other management tools.
And, in 2016, B.C. launched an urban deer management program, which provides $100,000 each year to help fund community-based urban deer management projects.
The funding follows up on the province’s pledge – made at the 2015 Union of BC Municipalities annual convention – to set aside annual funding for urban deer mitigation. The province is helping to fund Oak Bay’s program.
That makes it clear that local governments must initiate strategies to manage its deer populations, and the province will help with resources and funding.
So why are Comox Valley governments ignoring this problem?
Gardeners lose thousands of dollars worth of plants to the voraciously hungry deers, and spend thousands more on fencing and other methods to deter them. Farmers have lost crops. Motorists have collided with deer.
Deer attract dangerous animals. Deer make up about 95 percent of a cougar’s diet, and are lured into the urban area by the easy prey of unwary deer. The area conservation officer reports frequent cougar sightings in the Valley.
Letting the deer population go unchecked raises the risk of spreading Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. While reported cases of Lyme disease are not as prevalent here as in the Lower Mainland and other areas, a high density of deer means more ticks and a greater risk.
What Oak Bay is doing
The city recently put radio collars on 20 does to track their movements and better understand the deer population. The next step is to administer an immunocontraceptive vaccine, Zonastat-D, either by hand or via a darting rifle.
While the current version of the drug remains effective for up to 22 months, scientists are working on a vaccine that would work for up to seven years.
What’s going on in Haida Gwaii
Deer were introduced to the Haida Gwaii archipelago in 1880 by the B.C. Game Commission. They have since spread to all of the region’s 200 islands.
“The deer don’t have any predators so there’s no real control for their hyper abundance and they’re beginning to damage the ecosystem in an almost irreparable way,” a Parks Canada resource management technical told CBC news.
Professional sharpshooters have been hired to kill the deer and train young islanders to assist in the eradication.
The deer meat will be distributed for hot lunch programs throughout Haida Gwaii.
Who to call
If individual deer are an immediate threat to human safety, the Conservation Officer Service will respond. These instances should be reported to the RAPP line (Report All Poachers and Polluters) 1-877-952-7277 (RAPP) or #7277 on the TELUS Mobility Network.
To encourage local governments to develop deer management programs, call Comox Town Hall (339-2202) , Courtenay City Hall (334-4441) or the Comox Valley Regional District (334-6000).