This picture shows the effects of fallow deer on the forest understory on Sidney Island. The animals eat in the words of one local First Nation “anything and everything.” (Parks Canada/Submitted)

This picture shows the effects of fallow deer on the forest understory on Sidney Island. The animals eat in the words of one local First Nation “anything and everything.” (Parks Canada/Submitted)

Parks Canada wants to eradicate invasive deer on small island near Victoria

Proposal to shoot about 400-500 fallow deer part of a larger plan to restore local ecology

Parks Canada staff say the proposed eradication of invasive deer on a small island northeast of Victoria with small-calibre firearms will unfold in the safest, most humane way possible and help restore the ecology of the island.

But obstacles remain ahead, including approval from one of the stakeholders and questions about the actual number of animals.

The eradication of fallow deer is part of a larger plan to restore the natural ecology of Sidney Island that includes multiple stakeholders: Parks Canada, local First Nations, Sidney Island residents, provincial authorities and the Island Trust Conservancy.

Melissa Banovich, acting superintendent of Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, said the animals have been over-browsing local plants, undermining ecological restoration efforts.

“We have a wonderful opportunity to make a significant change to the landscape for the better that we will see in our life time, not to mention generations to come,” added Ben Tooby, Gulf Islands National Park Reserve project manager.

European settlers introduced fallow deer in the early 1900s for sport hunting. It is not clear how many live on the island. Winter hunting by local residents and First Nations on the portion of the island controlled by Parks Canada has helped bring down the numbers, but their continued presence has made it difficult for island’s ecology.

“They eat anything and everything that they can reach,” said Eric Pelky, community engagement coordinator, with the WSANEC (Saanich People) Leadership Council. “So it is really hard for anything to survive with the fallow deer being there.”

RELATED: Islands Trust Conservancy gets funds to fend off bullfrogs on Sidney Island

RELATED: Campground near Sidney renamed to recognize First Nations

The deer have denied local First Nations access to medicine harvested from plants and crowded out black tail deer, a traditional food source. Pelky, said black tail deer are barely hanging on.

It is not clear yet how much eradication would cost and how it would unfold, assuming all stakeholders sign off on the larger proposal, something that has not yet happened yet.

Triana Newton, spokesperson for some 90 owners of 111 bare-strata lots on the southern part of the island, said they recently received the proposal, which will be put to strata membership for a vote. A final decision could come mid-summer.

Newton said the current focus lies on gathering every possible piece of information, so owners can make the most informed decision.

“Some are rooted in ecological restoration, there are some rooted in wildlife preservation and you’ve got some that are also rooted in food security and food sourcing,” she said. “So we have a spectrum of views through our ownership.”

Banovich said the actual tactics of rounding up the animals remain under development and the consultation period that closes on June 17 gives members of public the opportunity to flag any outstanding issues.

Assuming approval, Parks Canada plans to hire a contractor with plans calling for eradication trials in the fall and winter of 2021-2022, with the actual cull taking place a year later.

Each would take place in the fall and winter when the park remains closed to tourists and the least amount of the people live on the island, said Banovich.

The culling of deer elsewhere has been the cause of controversy, a point Pelky acknowledged. “We are thinking that there might be some negative feedback from animal rights groups. So we are kind of prepared to answer questions about that.”

RELATED: SISȻENEM (Halibut Island) transfers to W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council under historic agreement

With no official figure available, the best available estimate pegs the fallow deer population between 400 to 500 animals, said Newtown.

Tooby said Parks Canada considered non-lethal methods of eradicating the animals, including the relocation of animals and the use of sterilisation and contraceptives to limit reproduction.

“Fallow deer are an invasive species so relocating these animals to alternate sites within the region would not be appropriate. Sterilization and the use of contraceptives requires animal capture and in some cases, repeated administration. With a population of this size, this would not be a realistic or humane option.”

Sara Dubois, director of science and policy division and chief scientific officer for the BC SPCA, confirmed her organization has been consulting with Parks Canada for several years, adding it has not yet seen the final plan, because it still awaits approval from stakeholders. This said, Dubois added it is rare for the BC SPCA to be involved in such a project at this stage.

“We have really appreciated the opportunity to be engaged in the project from start to finish,” she said.

“The BC SPCA doesn’t support any eradication, unless the animals themselves were suffering from disease or injury or starving on the island or something like that, but we might not oppose a project that met all of of the ethical wildlife control principles and has benefits to other animals.”

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.


Do you have a story tip? Email: vnc.editorial@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

Just Posted

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

Okanagan Lake (File photo)
Thompson-Okanagan ready to welcome back tourists

The Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association expects this summer to be a busy one

Aerial view of a wildfire at 16 Mile, 11 kilometres northwest of Cache Creek, that started on the afternoon of June 15. (Photo credit: BC Wildfire Service)
Wildfire at 16 Mile now being held

Wildfire started on the afternoon of June 15 at 16 Mile, east of Highway 97

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

Most Read