A tagged deer in Oak Bay, where the first run of the deer contraception program in Oak Bay. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

Greater Victoria mayors reach urban deer standstill with province

CRD mayors unable to get meeting with minister responsible for urban deer management

Mayors of Greater Victoria are back to square one in exploring additional options for urban deer management.

In September, mayors from eight municipalities including Esquimalt, Saanich, Victoria, North Saanich, Sidney, View Royal, Oak Bay and Colwood penned a letter the the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Developments in hopes of arranging a meeting with Minster Doug Donaldson.

Leading up to the letter, the mayors discussed how a regional effort needed to be taken for deer management and that more municipalities should be able to participate in the experimental deer contraceptive program that is being tested in Oak Bay. Any form of wildlife management must go through the province.

READ MORE: Greater Victoria municipalities hope for region-wide effort to control deer population

The Township of Esquimalt spearheaded the effort, hosting a mayors’ luncheon to discuss the matter. Esquimalt and CFB Esquimalt have also conducted two counts as well as surveys and education campaigns to the public over four years to assess the deer issues in the area, and in an effort to be eligible for research funding from the province. In total these efforts cost the Township $63,500.

The surveys showed that the Township has 135 black tail deer, while the base has around 60. Comparatively, Oak Bay has between 78 and 128 deer. Esquimalt also learned that 52 per cent of residents have spent money to prevent deer from damaging their property, while 13 per cent have encountered aggressive behaviour from deer.

Despite this data and the collaborative letter, a meeting with Minister Donaldson has not been granted. Additionally, Donaldson was not able to meet with the mayors before or during the recent Union of B.C. Municipalities Conference.

“We’re feeling a bit frustrated because we not only want to speak about the challenge of the region, but also to the four-year process that the province has put as through,” said Esquimalt Mayor Barbara Desjardins.

READ MORE: Esquimalt considers birth control for its deer population

On Oct. 8 a letter was penned back to the mayors from Jennifer Psyllakis, director of the Wildlife and Habitat Branch, suggesting that a meeting with staff members could be arranged. She also reminded mayors that funding for deer management fell under the Provincial Urban Deer Operational Cost-Share program (PUDOCS), which can provide funding either for operational projects and research projects.

“As your letter notes, the Municipality of Oak Bay’s current immuno-contraception project falls under the PUDOCS program funding eligibility criteria as a research project,” Psyllakis wrote. “This research trial is still underway and therefore the necessary data to determine if the program is successful and suitable for broader expansion is not yet available.”

The mayors were not satisfied with this response.

“I asked the mayors if they wanted to meet with staff,” Desjardins said. “They said no– staff meet with staff, we want a political discussion.”

In response to this letter, Esquimalt will be reaching out to Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

“As a group of eight mayors we were very disappointed that we could not get a meeting, neither here nor at the UBCM with the minister responsible for wildlife management,” Desjardins said.

She added the mayors will now be seeking a meeting with Robinson with two tones: one to express concern that a meeting with the appropriate minister couldn’t be arranged, and two to express concern about what’s happening with the urban deer population.

“We want the province to step up,” Desjardins said.

Black Press reached out to the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Developments on why a meeting couldn’t be arranged.

“Minister Donaldson understands the frustration expressed by the mayors regarding the problems that urban deer are causing within the Capital District,” said a ministry spokesperson in an emailed statement.

“We welcome an invitation for staff to meet with the mayors of Greater Victoria’s Capital Region regarding options on urban deer control. If options are not identified through discussions with staff, the Minister is pleased to discuss real or perceived barriers.”

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

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