Deer on birth control? Yes, that’s happening in Oak Bay
The community of Oak Bay on Vancouver Island has a plan to ease the booming deer population: inject them with birth control.
During a recent survey, almost three-quarters of Oak Bay residents said there were too many deer, but many were against lethal ways of managing the population.
The Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society (UWSS) is working with the municipality to develop an immuno-contraception project to potentially reduce the deer population by 50 per cent in five years.
It would involve vaccinating female deer with contraceptives.
The idea has already been utilized in some U.S. suburbs, including Hastings-on-Hudson in New York. The county had problems with the spread of Lyme disease through deer ticks and numerous vehicle collisions with deer.
Researchers have been vaccinating up to 21 doe over the last few mating seasons in the community. In 2016, they expected to use dart guns to vaccinate between 25 and 30 deer.
Steve Huxter with the UWSS says the Oak Bay plan would work by using clover traps where a doe is baited into walking in a trap, then vaccinated by a team of nearby workers.
The inoculations would be effective for up to five years, but only 30 per cent of the doe population would be vaccinated.
The UWSS says their project could set the standard for urban deer management in B.C. and beyond.
“This is a ground-breaking project,” Huxter told Global News.
Data from 2010 showed there were 103 deer-vehicle collisions in the Capital Regional District (CRD), which includes Oak Bay. The figure shows a consistent increase from 35 in 2000.
Council added that 40 deer died from car collisions and other injury-related events in 2013, double the number counted in 2012.
By the end of this year, Mayor Nils Jenson says they expect to see 50 deer fatalities.
Deer aggression is also a concern, as almost 10 per cent of people have reported spotting aggressive behaviour. What many see as most bothersome, however, is property damage. Almost 40 per cent of residents complained about deer destroying their property, such as garden plants.
It’s also of particular concern to the agriculture industry where deer have contributed to economic losses for producers.
Council will decide next week whether to ask the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations for a grant of up to $20,000 to support the birth control project.
“We hope to have a much more manageable population of deer in the district,” said Huxter.
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