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Deer's scrap with dog on Saanich trail raises spectre of cull

Jan 03 2012
The growing population of deer in suburban areas is leading to conflicts with other animals. 

The growing population of deer in suburban areas is leading to conflicts with other animals.

Photograph by: Files, timescolonist.com

A recent tussle between a dog and a deer on a popular trail in Saanich emphasizes the need for an effective deer-management strategy, according to politicians from Greater Victoria communities.

Christina Truscott's nearly blind dog Abby took several hooves to the head after unexpectedly coming across a deer in the bush while walking along the Lochside Trail in Saanich on Friday. The 11-year-old Belgian shepherd was as surprised as the deer, said Truscott, who can laugh about the situation because Abby walked away without injury.

Incidents like this one, however, are just a reminder of the increasing risks from encounters with deer, according to a Victoria councillor who wants to see a regional deer-management strategy implemented this year. Controlling the deer population will be one of the biggest issues for the Capital Regional District in 2012, said Victoria Coun. Geoff Young, who is also chairman of the CRD. He and his fellow board members will at least have to consider a cull when they come up with a strategy this year.

"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 [strategy] is," he said.

CRD board members began preliminary work on a deer-management plan in November. Public feedback from 400 households illustrates just how problematic deer have become.

Residents reported property damage, deer aggression, impact on agriculture and road hazards. Others don't want to see deer harmed.

"People are so divided on the issue," Young said. "It's a difficult one to talk about, but we have to get somewhere on this."

Truscott has already received feedback from Times Colonist readers who defended the deer in Friday's altercation, suggesting the dog was aggressive. Knowing her aging dog can barely see and walks at a crawling pace, she dismissed suggestions that Abby caused any trouble.

Although she says the situation could have been much worse, Truscott isn't in favour of a cull.

"The deer was just defending itself," she said.

Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen recalled an incident last summer where several dogs chased a deer through a neighbourhood. The "huge buck" jumped into a backyard and came close to trampling two young children, he said.

Young said he frequently heard about deer problems during last fall's civic election campaign. One Fairfield resident warned him about a mature buck who had harassed her husband.

"She hadn't put in a report because she didn't want to be responsible for the deer's death," Young said. "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 wholesale system of killing deer."

The CRD plans to look to 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 involving 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, animalrelated insurance claims rose to $30.8 million in 2007 from $15.8 million in 1997.

"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."

dspalding@timescolonist.com

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