OAK BAY, B.C. — Residents of a picturesque community on Vancouver Island have had enough of deer munching on their prized gardens, so a group is looking at whether birth control might help rein in the population.
Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen said the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society is trying to obtain an injectable contraceptive from the United States in an effort to curb the number of deer roaming around yards and on roads in the Victoria suburb.
He said 11 deer were killed in a cull last year, but that approach was divisive, with some residents proposing a more humane way to deal with the animals while others wanted culls to continue as a way of stopping deer from using their tulips, roses and hedges as buffets.
“It’s explosive,” Jensen said of the deer population.
The animals get hit by vehicles or die after getting stuck in fences and Jensen said the city is on track to pick up 50 deer carcasses this year .
“They’re evident everywhere in the community now, whereas 15, 20 years ago you never saw any, other than very, very rarely on the outskirts of Oak Bay, on the golf courses.”
The deer seem to have no fear of humans because they’ve become so accustomed to making themselves at home among people and causing conflicts with pets, he said.
“It’s almost as if they recognize some of us, they’re so frequent. My wife, the other day, was trying to shoo one away out of our yard and got within 10, 12 feet of it. If you can get that close then I suspect there’s very little if any danger in using a dart gun,” Jensen said of injecting the does with a birth-control serum.
Deer-human conflicts in the area have increased in recent years, said Steve Huxter, project manager of the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society, which sprung up last year in response to the over-population issue.
A woman jogging with her dog was recently surprised by a deer that popped out from behind a hedge, he said, adding the dog was struck by a hoof but not injured and the woman got a cut on her leg when she was knocked to the ground.
“During the mating season the males can become aggressive,” Huxter said.
The community, known for its manicured gardens, is divided on the cull-versus-contraception debate, he said.
The city has budgeted $20,000 to pay for a contraceptive and wants the province to match that amount so the program can be used next year.
The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations said Oak Bay’s funding application is being considered but the city needs to provide more information about a drug that would be safe and effective for black-tailed deer.
Huxter said a serum that was once available in Canada is no longer manufactured, so the group may try to get a different one from Montana, where Alberta obtains a contraceptive serum used to control a population of wild horses.
The society has also been in talks with a lab in Victoria to determine if it can produce a drug or whether the Montana serum could be enhanced to last up five years so deer do not have to be injected annually, Huxter said.
The province has already provided grants to four communities trying to control their deer population. Three plan to cull their herds and another wants to relocate the animals.
— By Camille Bains in Vancouver, follow @CamilleBains1 on Twitter
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