"Lessons Learned" Report Released by District of Oak Bay - CRD Deer Management Strategy Urban Pilot Project

May 13, 2015

The District of Oak Bay (the District) has released a report titled "Lessons Learned" that captures some of the important lessons from the District’s participation in the CRD Deer Management Strategy Urban Pilot Project. The report is intended to help communities throughout the Capital Region and throughout the province learn from the Oak Bay experience which rolled out under the direction of the CRD over a period of 18 months.  The total cost to the District was just under $50,000.00, twice the estimate suggested in the CRD Deer Management Strategy Urban Pilot proposal.

The overarching theme in the Lessons Learned report is for greater collaborative involvement from the province, who have overall responsibility for wildlife management in BC. The report notes that wildlife management is a specialized area of expertise, and having subject matter experts actively taking part in informing and implementing a deer management strategy with local citizen involvement would promote collaboration and shared understanding of all the intricate dynamics involved in addressing the challenges of urban deer in a responsible and humane manner.  

The Lessons Learned report outlines the steps that were taken, makes a number of recommendations for improved processes, and notes challenges that are specific to undertaking a population reduction initiative in a mild coastal climate where there is an abundant, natural food source for the urban deer.  The report recognizes the need for more and sustained public education and recommends looking to partner with organizations such as Wild Safe BC that have expertise and the mandate to help citizens learn how to reduce human-wildlife conflicts and coexist safely. 

The District’s report notes that there remains significant public confusion and debate over what population reduction options exist for municipalities in B.C., and what population options the authorities in the provincial government will permit.  The report also calls for communities and the provincial government to work collaboratively to explore other options for population management and reduction.  The District notes that achieving social license to undertake a deer management plan that is limited to capture and euthanize population reduction measures is going to remain challenging for the provincial government, municipal governments and communities.

Following the municipal election of 2014, the newly elected Council moved forward with a mandate to proceed with the final component of the CRD Deer Management Strategy, and directed staff to apply for a permit to harvest up to 25 blacktailed deer in Oak Bay.  With the support of private property owners, 11 deer were harvested over 16 days without detection or disturbing neighbourhoods.  The District learned that while it is costly and very challenging, it is possible to undertake a cull providing the community has secured an experienced contractor and providing there is municipal leadership supported by sufficient social licence in the community.

The report also notes that there are financial costs to taxpayers and residents even if no action is taken, and that there are also social costs and real risks to public safety. The costs to taxpayers for managing deer fatalities and to homeowners through property damage, and fencing investments have not been considered and are likely more significant than citizens realize. 

The District is waiting to hear from the CRD with regard to recommendations and next steps. 

In the absence of any natural predators, human-deer conflicts are to be expected to continue and increase throughout the Capital Region as the population of deer rises unchecked.

For more information on the District's participation in the pilot project, click here.