Concerns with deer and other urban wildlife
In recent years, the issue of expanding “wildlife” populations in rural and urban Saanich has become increasingly problematic. Deer and Canada Geese have become a particular concern for both rural and urban residents. With a lack of predators and an ample food supply, it is not surprising that their populations have grown exponentially. Today, they damage the gardens of urban dwellers, represent a growing safety concern and constitute a very real economic threat for farmers.
While responsibility for these issues ultimately lies with provincial authorities, waiting for the province to respond provides little relief for affected residents. At a recent Union of British Columbia Municipalities conference workshop, a representative of The Ministry of the Environment indicated the ministry lacked the budgetary resources to address “urban” wildlife issues. He did, however, suggest that wherever possible, the ministry would provide expertise and assistance to municipally initiated “urban” wildlife programs. Furthermore, he indicated that a first step to address these issues is the formation of a stakeholder committee charged with recommending actions to Council. It is likely that some form of consultation with stakeholders would be a “first step” requirement even if action were to be undertaken and funded entirely by the province.
Presently, an initiative aimed at dealing with geese is occurring in our region with both the Peninsula Agricultural Commission and CRD Parks working towards a regional Canada Geese management strategy. Funding could come, in part at least, from the Agriculture Environment and Wildlife Fund. This initiative represents a positive step forward. Nevertheless, there does not, at present, seem to be a local response aimed at dealing with rapidly expanding deer populations.
One approach to addressing deer populations would be to seek a region wide initiative through the Capital Regional District. While some sort of region wide approach is undoubtedly needed, there are concerns about just how rapidly the regional district could provide a response. In addition, solutions to controlling deer are likely to be diverse with rural approaches potentially being quite different from those that would be appropriate in urban environments. For these reasons, it may be more productive to have one municipality take leadership in deer management with the goal of producing a set of regulations that other municipalities could tailor to their own circumstances. This approach has a track record of past success with issues such has adaptable housing.
Finally, the issue of deer management is likely to be controversial with citizens holding a wide gamut of opinion about deer, the “threat” they constitute and the manner in which their populations should be controlled. If a local committee or initiative is to be successful it’s membership and structures should adequately reflect this “diversity of viewpoints”.
1. That Council immediately seek to establish an “urban” wildlife committee charged with recommending a course of action to deal with the problem of deer populations in rural and urban Saanich.
2. That membership of said committee should aim to adequately reflect the local diversity of viewpoints on the issue.
3. That Council write to The Ministry of Environment in order to: remind them of their responsibility to deal with urban wildlife issues, indicate Council’s intent to form a stakeholder committee and ask for a commitment to provide all available expertise and resources. In particular, that the ministry be requested to forward terms of reference forexisting stakeholder committees as soon as possible.
4. That Council ask staff to investigate the possibility of funding partners for any costs that the municipality might have to assume if the province fails to meet its obligations.
5. That Council send a letter to neighbouring municipalities advising of Council’s intent to address this issue and inviting them to provide input.
Councillor Vic Derman
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