Oak Bay opts for fertility control over killing urban deer

June 28, 2015 -- Oak Bay opponents of culling deer say they have made arrangements for a contraceptive vaccine to reduce the urban black-tailed population without lethal force — and have a volunteer willing to pay the $6,000 it will cost.

“Many didn’t think the vaccine was available — it just took some perseverance,” said Kristy Kilpatrick, vice-president of the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society, which unveiled its pro-contraception campaign in April.

The society has hired a contractor who has a letter stating “confirmation from SpayVac’s manufacturer that 25 doses will be available” for the group late this summer, providing that all regulatory requirements are met. That includes provincial and federal permits.

The society has submitted its application for the provincial permit, and the federal application is underway, said society president Bryan Gates.

A spokesman for the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources said the group’s application has not been reviewed or processed.

“Timelines can vary considerably, based on how much back- and-forth is required to verify all necessary information.” The spokesman said it is not aware of any other case in which a community group has applied for a permit to use a contraceptive vaccine.

“Immunocontraceptives are not routinely available, and their use is limited to research and controlled by Health Canada,” he said.

The society is still negotiating the financial and technical terms of the agreement with the contractor, who is leading a working group comprised of wildlife biologists and graduate students, Kilpatrick said.

The cost of the vaccine will not exceed $250 per dose. Society officials hope to have the permits and serum before the deer rut in October, Gates said. The deer could be captured in the kinds of cages used for the Oak Bay cull of 11 deer this year.

Instead of being killed with bolts to the head, female deer would be injected, tagged as unfit for human consumption as per Health Canada regulations, and monitored to determine the number of deer roaming local municipalities. Kilpatrick criticized urban deer culls as “short-term, ineffective and inhumane by many people’s standards.”

Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen said in April that he expected council to embrace the contraceptive project.

Before the cull permit was issued last January, the serum was not available and required the go-ahead from senior governments. At the time, Jensen said the drug could not be used in the Oak Bay program because it was available only for research purposes.

A doe injected with SpayVac typically will not conceive for five years in a lifespan that is not usually longer than seven years, said Gates, a retired biologist.

Deer frequently have twins, meaning dozens fewer fawns would be born in any one year of a contraceptive project. Now that the contraceptives seem secure, the society plans to “kick our fundraising into high gear,” Kilpatrick said.

The group will approach the government and other public funders for support, given that the contraceptive program could mean substantial savings to them in the long term.

The combined Capital Regional District and Oak Bay cull cost more than $270,000, she added. The society has raised about $10,000. A federal permit would cost almost $3,000. A B.C. Wildlife Act permit would not typically exceed $110, a provincial spokesman said.

Originally published in the Victoria (Canada) Times-Colonist, June 28, 2015

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