POLITICS

B.C. group opposed to deer cull proposes birth control to reduce herds

04/15/2015 03:57 EDT | Updated 06/26/2015 08:59 EDT
VICTORIA - A Vancouver Island group is fawning over birth control plans that may actually lead to a little less wild life.

The municipality of Oak Bay has been overrun with the urban ungulates that have no predators and plenty to eat in the Victoria-area seaside community that is known for its beautiful gardens.

Earlier this year, Oak Bay volunteered to be the first suburban Victoria community to approve a deer cull. Eleven deer were killed in February after being trapped and held in a net-like structure until contractors arrived and shot them with weapons similar to those used to slaughter cattle.

Biologist Rick Page said Wednesday that Oak Bay, with its sprawling yards and lush greenery, has created an ideal, predator-free environment for deer populations.

"We've created a much better environment for them than the natural environment," Page said. "A lot of the back yards in Oak Bay are secure and safe. A lot of the plants we've planted are like ice cream for deer."

He said injecting female deer with an experimental animal birth control vaccine would be much more humane than the current plan of trapping and killing them with bolt guns.

"We want to demonstrate a better way and if we are successful then there's no reason for Oak Bay to consider a cull again," Page said.

Oak Bay recently formed an Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society and the group plans to ask for federal and provincial approval to administer the experimental vaccine SpayVac to female deer by this summer.

"We're hoping to partner with Oak Bay and the province," Page said.

Health Canada and B.C. government permits are required before the start of any deer cull operation.

Page said the deer receiving the birth control vaccine injections must also have tags attached to their ear that say, "Do Not Eat," because they have been administered an experimental vaccine.

B.C.'s minister of forests, lands and natural resource operations said the government will consider the birth control option when and if it receives an official permit application.

Steve Thomson said many B.C. communities are struggling with urban deer problems, but most reject birth control.

Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen said his municipality has been grappling with growing deer populations for years and decided a cull was the best option. But he said he supports the birth control effort by citizens who are now admitting something has to be done.

"This is a clear acceptance of the problem," he said. "The problem exists and we have to do something about it."

Jensen said Oak Bay considered numerous options to reduce deer populations, including transporting them to Tofino, located more than 300 kilometres west of Victoria, or releasing them on a remote island.