B.C.’s Capital Regional District seeks help in Bambi battle

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Decreased agriculture yields, a reduction in songbirds and damage to gardens on Mayne Island are being blamed on introduced fallow deer.

Introduced fallow deer are altering the natural ecosystem on Mayne Island. Parks Canada / Handout

Biologists are unsure if fallow deer outnumber people on Mayne Island, but it’s certainly close.

The Capital Regional District has asked for help developing a management strategy to deal with the unruly ungulates, which were first introduced to the small Gulf island — human population 1,071 — in the 1980s by a farmer who raised them for meat.

According to a request-for-proposals (RFP) recently issued by the district, the farm no longer exists, but during its time, several deer escaped, had fawns, and now number between 500-1,000 strong. The population explosion has had several impacts on the island environment, including environmental degradation, decreased agriculture yields, a reduction in songbirds, and damage to personal property and gardens. There’s also been a rise in “deer-vehicle collisions.”

The RFP noted that nearby Gulf Islands are also at-risk of a deer invasion, as they’re capable swimmers.

“There doesn’t seem to be any solution that I can see,” said Don McDougall, owner, along with his wife Shanti, of Deacon Vale Farm and Farm Gate store. “I’d love to see them processed (for meat), but the regulations don’t allow that.”

The farmer said he once counted 30 deer as he drove off his farm.

The district is seeking “the services of qualified professionals with experience with hyper-abundant wildlife in a populated area” to develop a fallow-deer strategy. The person will need to engage district staff, residents, provincial officials and local First Nations, as well as the eight Mayne Island hunters with rifle permits.

The RFP explained that while fallow-deer hunting is allowed, “opportunities for hunting on public land are minimal” because much of Mayne is privately owned. Hunters with proper authorization were able to kill about 700 deer between 2003 and 2011, but the population continued to grow, “which means the current management option is not keeping up with the rate of reproduction.”

Fallow deer in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. Photo: Parks Canada PNG

Management options fall into four different categories, according to the regional district, including conflict reduction, such as landscaping, repellents and fencing, fertility control, which is limited due to the lack of approved fertility-control drugs for ungulates in Canada, population reduction and “learning to live with the deer.”

The RFP also recommends looking at control measures employed by the federal government in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, where there are problems with both fallow deer and Sitka black-tailed deer. Parks Canada is spending $5.7 million over three years, including the hiring of New Zealand sharpshooters, to eradicate introduced Sitka black-tailed deer from several remote islands.

A total of 598 deer were shot from March to October in 2017 in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site. The meat was distributed for food on Haida Gwaii.

The Mayne Island RFP closes in early October, with submission of the draft strategy due at the end of December.

—With Postmedia News files




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