Pilot project to control deer births proposed in Esquimalt

Oct. 13, 2015 - The Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society (UWSS) believes it has the solution to deal with the region’s thriving deer problem — birth control.

Speaking at an Esquimalt council meeting Monday night, society president and retired biologist Bryan Gates proposed a pilot project that would trap female deer, then inject them with SpayVac — a contraceptive vaccine that’s proven effective in deer and can be used to control populations.

Gates has no idea how many deer are living in Esquimalt, but said the problem stems throughout Greater Victoria. Deer started showing up in communities about 10 years ago, found food and had no predators so they stayed. Now, the females have established themselves.

“The females particularly, once they come and find a spot, they tend to stay in that spot. They don’t move any more than two, three or four blocks,” said Gates, adding the bucks will wander around together after fawning season in early June.

When those fawns are born, they grow up and have fawns within a reasonable distance of where they were born.

“We know the SpayVac can and does work and can reduce the number of fawns born each year. Eventually if you treat enough, it causes the populations to decline.”

UWSS, launched in April, is comprised of deer scientists, educators and managers with extensive senior public service experience. The group has already approached Oak Bay with their project and has been contacted by other jurisdictions, including Esquimalt.

Last February, Oak Bay faced major criticism over the cull of 11 deer as part of a $250,000 Capital Regional District pilot program for deer management. Members of the society wanted to offer alternatives other than killing the animals.

“There were a lot of people that were very upset and a number of people who were very delighted with it of course because they don’t want the deer eating their garden,” said Gates. “We formed to say, can we do it a different way? We know that SpayVac was available and we thought we can try it and see what happens.”

The society is currently waiting on permits from the federal and provincial government to begin the pilot project. Gates said the province requires an inventory of deer first. The deer would be trapped and given numbered ear tags to help with monitoring.

Council asked staff to bring back a report of what a pilot project might look like in Esquimalt.

Originally published by Victoria News, British Columbia, Canada on Oct. 13, 2015.

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