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Citizens committee on deer backed at CRD meeting

Feb 23 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 citizens advisory committee will be set up to gather information on all ways to deal with deer in the region and will be asked to make finding options for agricultural communities its first priority.

Three farmers will be on the 12-member advisory committee that will examine the issue, which is causing concern in most of the region's 13 municipalities.

The recommendation, made Wednesday by the region's planning, transportation and protective services committee, has to be ratified by the capital regional district board.

The committee heard impassioned pleas on all sides of the issue.

Several strong requests were made by farmers, who did not necessarily advocate for a deer cull, but outlined the threat that the proliferation of deer is to their livelihood, food security and production on Vancouver Island.

"The farmers here today are the last of your major farms for your food sustainability in the greater Victoria region. We are a dying breed," said Ray Galey.

The issue is not a cosmetic one for farmers, but one of making a living or not, said Wendy Fox, on behalf of Saanich Peninsula farmers. Farmers are limited in what they can do to scare off deer. Some municipalities allow farmers to kill five deer a year, but that barely touches the problem, said Fox, who said it is common to find 15 in a field at a time. Farmers can use noise pistols for half an hour each day, but that aggravates neighbours who call police and then advocate boycotting farmers who use them, Fox said.

"The deer population desperately needs to be reduced to a manageable number," Fox said. "Already farmers are not growing some crops because they will never make it to market."

Unless the problem is dealt with, there will be a substantial decrease in the amount of produce on the Saanich Peninsula, she said. "This is not a threat. It is a reality."

As well, more farmers will let fields lie fallow rather than plant them and lose them to the deer in an afternoon.

Terry Michell said they have farmhands working until 3 a.m., driving around the fields and shooing deer from one field to another.

The urban deer issue is much different than the agricultural deer issue, said Ryan Vantreight.

"Going out to the park and seeing a deer is a beautiful thing. But when we see the deer in our fields, it's like seeing someone breaking into your car. Our crops are being vandalized or lost or stolen by the deer," Vantreight said.

"Today is not about whether we kill the deer or move them. Today is about whether we do something or not. Please do something."

Several other speakers addressed the committee, most advocating for deer to be left alone. Some said the issue has been blown out of proportion by politicians and a "media frenzy. "

"Thou shalt not cull," said Anthony Rose.

Liz White, of the Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada, came from Ontario for the meeting. White said she supported the development of a deer management strategy as long as the process is "open, transparent fair and unbiased." The citizens group must have equal representation from those who are "pro-" and "anti-" deer, she said, and the expert advisory committee must be balanced as well.

The CRD committee said it is clear the urban deer issue is different and less pressing than the agricultural issue. The citizens committee, if approved, will be struck by the CRD and will have a range of people as well as an expert committee. They will study the issue and present findings and options to the CRD board, which will make a decision.

kwestad@timescolonist.com

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