The buck stops here

Oak Bay council looks to take the regional lead on deer overpopulation

A young buck deer takes a break while eating plants in a garden along Lansdowne Road at Larkdowne Road. Oak Bay council wants to take action in crafting a deer control strategy

A young buck deer takes a break while eating plants in a garden along Lansdowne Road at Larkdowne Road. Oak Bay council wants to take action in crafting a deer control strategy

John Herbert was getting ready to make a phone call when a familiar sight caught his eye.

Right there, out the window, in the backyard of his Willows Beach-area home, were a mother deer and her three fawns, happily munching away.

Herbert sighed and headed out to shoo them away for the umpteenth time, knowing it was only a temporary solution to what’s becoming a persistent problem.

The Oak Bay councillor has become increasingly frustrated in recent weeks with the lack of a deer management strategy in the Capital Region. At Monday’s council meeting, he made his frustrations known.

“We need to do something quickly, because a lot of people are getting sick and tired of it,” Herbert said.

There is a feeling in Oak Bay that the animals are increasingly causing problems for residents, he explained. Herbert wants to see the municipality take leadership in putting a regional plan together that will tackle the deer issue once and for all.

Adding to his frustration is the fact the province and Capital Regional District have been batting the problem back and forth for months without making any major progress.

Though the CRD believes it’s the province’s responsibility to deal with deer, the province has said it won’t foot the bill for a task force on the issue. The CRD’s Planning, Transportation and Protective Services Committee has, in the meantime, asked for more information on the cost of any potential management plans, as well as data from ICBC on how much of a safety issue deer present to drivers.

But progress has been slow. The CRD has yet to form a committee to tackle the problem.

“At this time, there has not been support for the region or the municipal level of government taking this on in a regional way,” said CRD spokesman Andy Orr.

Back in Oak Bay, council members are tired of waiting and want to take action – soon.

“It really does make sense to do something more proactive,” said Coun. Tara Ney.

Taking action will require money, however.

A CRD report released in June estimated that putting together a deer management plan could cost upwards of $225,000, though it is expected about $100,000 of that would come from in-kind contributions from various stakeholders.

As for possible solutions, Herbert suggested relocating the nuisance animals.

“I’m sure we could get a couple of cattle trucks and we could truck them up to the interior and it wouldn’t do any harm,” he said. “They could go back into the forest where they belong.”

Whichever plan is agreed upon, Herbert hopes Oak Bay will be seen as a leader on the deer-control front. He’s certain his neighbours would be thankful.

“My wife and I were visiting friends the other day. I think (my friend) got up four or five times while we were there to go out and chase deer out of his yard.”

Council is expected to look further at the issue at subsequent meetings, while continuing to keep an eye on developments at the CRD level.

In the meantime, Herbert continues to keep his eye on his own backyard.

editor@oakbaynews.com