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Citizen committee could decide fate of deer

Feb 19 2012
If created, the citizen committee would consider a range of options to deal with the region’s burgeoning deer population. 

If created, the citizen committee would consider a range of options to deal with the region’s burgeoning deer population.

Photograph by: Lyle Stafford , timescolonist.com

A citizen committee should investigate ways to deal with the region's burgeoning deer population and should consider everything from the status quo to a cull, says a Capital Regional District report.

The CRD planning, transportation and protective services committee that deals with the controversial deer issue will decide on the recommendation Wednesday.

Chairman John Ranns likes the idea of a group of informed citizens gathering the information, expertise and opinions from the public, which, he said, has "very strong feelings" on the deer issue.

"We need citizen engagement, and we need to be clear on the realities of each choice — no airy fairy stuff," said Ranns, who is also mayor of Metchosin.

If the recommendation is accepted, the 12-person citizen committee would be selected and asked to have its regional deer management strategy report prepared by the end of July. The members would work with an expert committee, including parks ecologists, veterinarians, agrologists, biologists and others who have previously worked in deer management, as well as CRD staff.

The CRD board would ultimately decide on the strategy put in place, but it will take much of its direction from the information gleaned by the citizen committee.

The region has been struggling to find a way to deal with the Columbian black-tailed deer that have become commonplace, munching on flowers in the core municipalities, trotting down city streets and destroying thousands of dollars of crops on several Saanich Peninsula farms.

There are about 50,000 deer on Vancouver Island. And although the number of deer seen in urban areas seems to have risen, it doesn't mean they're flocking to the city. A senior biologist told the CRD that the numbers are on the rise because the deer that are already in the city areas are thriving and reproducing and don't have predators.

The citizen committee will have its work cut out for it. The deer concerns vary depending on the municipality. On the Peninsula, it's an economic issue. Crops and livelihoods can be destroyed in an afternoon by a group of deer. In the core, people are more concerned about the impact on their gardens and about deer being run over on busy streets.

The committee will be asked to provide options — ranging from "hazing and frightening techniques" to deer birth control to culling — for each problem.

Some argue the deer are causing little more than cosmetic harm and that people should be able to deal with that. To others, such as ICBC, they cost money. ICBC data show reported deer-related motor-vehicle collisions in CRD municipalities have increased by an average of 13 per cent a year since 2000, growing to more than 100 collisions in 2010.

"Although it sounds cruel, the reality is that, in some ways, there is a cull going on now through automobile accidents," said Geoff Young, chairman of the CRD and a Victoria councillor.

"There is not just death, but also suffering on the part of the animals, as well as danger to people who hit them."

kwestad@timescolonist.com

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