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Killing deer is not pretty, Metchosin mayor warns

Feb 03 2012

The problem of deer destroying crops on Saanich Peninsula should be considered separately from the cosmetic issue of urban deer munching on flowers, says the chairman of a Capital Regional District committee looking at deer control.

A staff report will go to the planning committee Feb. 22 and Metchosin Mayor John Ranns — who has yet to see the report — wants to emphasize it is not a warm, fuzzy topic.

"Everyone has to understand that culling is what we are talking about, not any other little happy thing like taking them to the vet and having them neutered," he said.

Peninsula deer herds may have to be thinned rather than eradicated in areas where they are causing extensive damage to crops, said Ranns, adding that, during 35 years of farming, he has found secure fencing is the only sure way to deter deer.

Deer could be killed out of the public eye on large tracts of agricultural land, Ranns said.

But it is a different scenario in urban areas and people will have to decide whether they want to opt for killing for cosmetic purposes, Ranns said.

"As someone who has hunted, it's not a pretty sight," he said, musing about public reaction in downtown Victoria to a deer caught in a cage beating itself to a pulp trying to escape.

Then the deer is shot with a boltgun "and doing the funky chicken with blood coming out of its ears," he said. "That's why I am looking at dual solutions. One can be accomplished and the other one is a lot more difficult," he said.

Directors will also have to consider whether a cull should be a regional initiative or left to individual municipalities, as several municipalities are unlikely to participate, Ranns said.

"These are questions that need to be asked before we get into it," he said.

Anti-deer cull forces are mobilizing and a newly-formed group wants to meet directors.

DeerSafe Victoria drew 30 people to its first meeting and is being supported by the Ontario-based Animal Alliance Environment Voters, said DeerSafe spokeswoman Kelly Carson. "Some people really want to cull these animals and we intend to produce research giving alternatives to culling," she said.

CRD chairman Geoff Young said directors will have to decide how to ensure they hear from both sides. "It is possible that they will decide a fairer system will be to form a citizens' committee or a more formal process for input," he said.

The final decision will be made by the board and that decision is not imminent, Young said. "We want to hear from the public and we may want to harness some of the expertise we have in the region to give us advice," he said. "If possible, I know the board would like to find a solution that doesn't alienate half the population of the region."

Carson said that, in addition to barriers and deterrents, a contraceptive for deer has been developed, but not yet approved for use in Canada, so DeerSafe has asked Green MP Elizabeth May for help.

May, Saanich-Gulf Islands MP, said she is researching the deer contraceptive.

jlavoie@timescolonist.com

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