We asked the Saanich mayor and council candidates to provide their thoughts and strategies on wildlife management.
David Cubberley, mayoral candidate:
We have to involve ourselves in managing urban wildlife populations because ‘natural’ carrying capacity can support unlimited growth. There are a range of reasons why we need to act in relation to deer: public safety, threat to farming, damage to gardens, and public health (deer enable tick populations to complete their adult phase – ticks are vectors for a wide array of infectious diseases, including Lyme). Geese are also a problem population for farmers.
Frank Leonard, mayoral candidate:
We have supported the need of farmers to save their crops from wildlife. We also need to work together to find methods for this to happen while enabling residents to enjoy the peace of their neighbourhoods. In all cases, wildlife is the responsibility of the provincial government, and we will continue to urge them to take a more interested and active role in this issue in Saanich and the CRD.
Susan Brice, council candidate:
I support the Union of BC Municipalities call for the provincial government to take the lead on this issue in that it is in their mandate. They need to develop a wildlife management strategy in consultation with local government. In our area this is a natural role for the Regional District to play in that Wildlife Management knows no municipal boundaries.
Judy Brownoff, council candidate:
I believe dealing with this urban deer population is a provincial issue and should be funded by the provincial government, but it’s clear that is not going to happen. It is obvious that our deer population is increasing. Given that deer accident costs are a significant cost to ICBC, maybe we could work with ICBC on educational and awareness programs. Deer contact with vehicles are increasing and. I support working with the Ministry of Environment to develop a management plan. The Ministry needs to manage the population as well as ensure that any diseases that may come forward are eliminated.
Vic Derman, council candidate:
Urban deer have become an important issue in Saanich. In October, of 2010 I took a report to Council outlining a strategy for dealing with this and other wildlife issue. The report recommended Council deal with the issue municipally and not direct it to the CRD. While there are some regional aspects to the issue, I felt working municipally would be faster and less expensive. In any case, Council preferred to forward the report to the CRD where, over one year later, it resides. Hopefully, we will see some action soon.
Paul Gerrard, council candidate:
The recent situation with UVIC’s rabbits shows that sometimes, we have to be proactive and not reactive. Without natural predators, wildlife can become a challenge to human settlements that have increasingly moved into wildlife’s natural habitat. Deer are a problem at the moment, destroying farmer’s crops and neighbourhood gardens. They are also a serious problem on our roads, with deer being killed and causing avoidance accidents. At the recent UBCM Conference, I sat in on a forum where Cranbrook reported that they capture and harvest healthy deer and distribute the meat to food banks, which I believe is a good solution.
Ingrid Ip, council candidate:
Living in Gordon Head I am well aware of that frustration of the deer population and the damage that they do to gardens. Nevertheless, I think we need to try to adapt to wildlife as much as they are trying to adapt to us. I do not support the culling of animals unless it can accomplish at least two goals. For example, reducing the deer population and using the meat for food banks. That being said, my role on council is to support the wishes of the majority of constituents on this and all issues.
Dean Murdock, council candidate:
Saanich Council took steps to address the growing population of urban rabbits and deer (eg, banning sale of unneutered rabbits, prohibiting feeding of deer, and possible increased fence heights). These measures alone will not solve the problem. Senior governments possess the legislative controls and have to be part of any process. We can learn from the collaborative efforts to manage geese that led to a multi-agency action plan.
Vicki Sanders, council candidate:
I believe that wildlife management needs to be done in a thoughtful, respectful manner. First, I believe there needs to be more education of the public—we can co-exist but not at the expense of public and animal safety. Local government needs to work closely with provincial and federal regulators to ensure that we have the support to protect the community whether it is deer, geese or dangerous predators.
Nichola Wade, council candidate:
As a rural Saanich resident, l am keenly aware of the abundance of wildlife in our community. While we, in rural Saanich, may find this attractive, not all wildlife is seen as welcome visitor to Saanich properties. While some dismiss the damage to gardens as superficial, we will not advance local food production on urban lots without a management plan. In addition to this, my concerns centre on the human-animal interaction. It was just a few years ago when a cyclist was killed when he hit a deer on our streets and ICBC says vehicle/deer crashes have increased substantially year over year. Wildlife management for this reason alone is a necessity.
Leif Wergeland, council candidate:
For too long we have watched deer destroy food crops and gardens in both rural and urban Saanich. A problem is a situation that hasn’t been dealt with. We now have a problem with wildlife. Although it is a provincial issue, they are not prepared to fund the problem. I believe that in the new year a committee should be struck with representation from the province, CRD, council and the greater community to come up with solutions and timelines on how best to manage our wildlife.
Rob Wickson, council candidate:
We need to preserve our green spaces and protect our wildlife by protecting our ecosystem. I support the ALR and Urban Containment Boundary legislation. We need to prevent habitat erosion by addressing land use development. Our urban and rural landscape is connected and we should encourage urban gardening and plant more trees in our neighbourhoods.
Harald Wolf, council candidate:
I will go out on a limb here and point out that we really don’t have a “wildlife” problem; we have an urban-animal integration problem. The geese that are causing many of the problems, were actually bred and released as game for local hunters, when that was still allowed in Saanich. The deer may be native, but their population has exploded beyond anything ever seen in the wild, since we aggressively eliminate their natural predators, and provide an abundance of food in artificially irrigated landscapes that is much greater than occurred here before modern times. If we want to continue to support farming, and increase the food produced on farms and in our backyards, we must address the urban animal issue head on. We need consultation, a series of options and then a majority-supported implementation strategy. As with so many issues, not everyone will be pleased.