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Dog scuffles with deer on Lochside trail

Jan 01 2012

Christina Truscott’s dog Abby took several hooves to the head from a deer while walking along the Lochside trail in Saanich on Friday, but managed to survive the heavy-weight bout.

The 11-year-old Belgian shepherd stumbled onto the deer unsuspectingly, according to Truscott, who can laugh about the situation now that her dog walked away from the scuffle.

Incidents like this one, however, are just a reminder of the increasing risks from encounters with deer, according to a Victoria councillor who wants a regional deer management strategy. Controlling the deer population will be one of the biggest issues in the coming year for the Capital Regional District, said Coun. Geoff Young.

“We’re hearing that there are some pretty good reasons to make us go ahead and do something about this, although there certainly isn’t agreement on what that is,” he said.

Truscott laughed off the encounter between her dog and the deer, but the situation could have been much worse, she explained. Either way, she doesn’t want to see an all-out cull to solve the problem.

“The deer was just defending itself,” she said. “I’m certainly not one of the ones wanting a cull. I’m the one saying don’t kill these little guys.”

Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen is also concerned about run-ins with deer. He recalled an incident this summer when several dogs had chased a deer through a neighbourhood.

The deer jumped into a backyard and came close to trampling two young children, he explained.

“Those are the personal safety issues we’re concerned about,” Jensen said.

Young heard about deer issues quite often during the campaign leading up to the Nov. 19 election. One Fairfield resident warned him about a mature buck who had harassed her husband.

“But at the same time, she hadn’t put in a report because she didn’t want to be responsible for the deer’s death,” Young said. “And we’re seeing a lot of that. People are aware there is an issue and they know about the danger, but at the same time, they don’t want to implement a whole sale system of killing deer.”

Helping inform the CRD plan will be results from other communities where limited culls have been introduced, including Cranbrook and Kimberley.

Cranbrook issued 25 permits to trap and euthanize deer this winter. The meat is donated as food.

Vehicle accidents with deer have increased in recent years. ICBC data show deer-related collisions in CRD municipalities have jumped by an average of 13 per cent a year since 2000, growing to more than 100 collisions in 2010 from 35 reported in 2000.

Provincewide, animal-related insurance claims rose to $30.8 million in 2007 from $15.8 million in 1997.

Biologists say urban deer are thriving and reproducing. The ballooning population is largely because of a lack of predators in the area, according to conservation officers.

“There's nothing controlling the population other than the odd motor vehicle accident,” said conservation officer Peter Pauwels. “None of the natural predators are around in these environments anymore.”

Creating a plan at the CRD is a much more effective strategy than if each municipality tackles the issue, said Young.

A hodge-podge of plans in the various Greater Victoria communities would not solve the problem, he explained.

dspalding@timescolonist.com