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No passing the buck for municipalities

Nov 21 2012

Municipalities must take the bull by the horns - or the buck by the antlers - before they can ask for provincial help in solving their deer problems, says a Capital Regional District report going to directors next week.

Bylaws prohibiting deer feeding and allowing higher fences, combined with public education about repellents and landscaping options, should be in place before either municipalities or the CRD goes to the province asking for changes to hunting regulations or a trap-and-kill program, the report says.

"In the case of population control measures, provincial approval is required, but conflict reduction measures need to be in place prior to qualifying for such approval," it says, adding, "Conflict reduction measures are largely within the jurisdiction of local governments."

The report takes the multitude of recommendations from the Citizens Advisory Committee - a group formed this year to address concerns about the growing number of urban deer - and distills them into lists of what is possible at the local level and what needs provincial approval.

"We needed to determine what was feasible and not feasible. How does it hit the ground," said Bob Lapham, CRD general manager of planning.

Some of the more controversial proposals - such as professional sharpshooting and reducing distance regulations for firearms and bows - have been effectively scrapped.

The report says those measures are considered socially unacceptable and unworkable because of safety risks.

The CRD does not like the idea of being given authority to deal with aggressive deer - seen by municipalities as a form of provincial downloading.

"Delegation of such authority would come with added insurance, liability, firearms, staff training and other issues that municipalities are unlikely to willingly assume," the report says.

Capturing and relocating deer has been dismissed because deer do not travel well and deer contraception is not available in Canada at this time, said Marg Misek-Evans, regional planning manager at the CRD.

However, some municipalities may choose to go it alone and ask the province for action on hunting regulation changes or culling.

"For people [who] worry this is an endless loop, options are available to municipalities right away," Lapham said.

The question is whether municipalities want to act individually or regionally, he said.

"There are a lot of steps that can be taken in more rural areas. In urban areas, it is more challenging."

The report will go the CRD's planning, transportation and protective services committee on Nov. 28. Members of the public will be able to speak at that meeting.

The recommendation is for CRD staff to make presentations to councils before the report returns to the committee with municipal feedback. The committee will then make recommendations to the CRD board.

In Oak Bay, where there has been increasing concern over garden-munching and aggressive animals, Mayor Nils Jensen said he hoped leadership and action would come from the CRD.

"The problem with a patchwork of solutions is deer do not recognize municipal boundaries," he said.

The problem could be addressed by subregions as issues on Saanich Peninsula are different from the core, Jensen said. "But we are certainly determined to take some action."

jlavoie@timescolonist.com

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