Wildlife biologists say that we should be managing our ecosystems for the good of all inhabitants, including people. Many people don’t want to and don’t know how. We have forsaken not only our ancestors’ destructive ways but much of their hands-on nature know-how as well. Our knowledge of nature arrives on screens, where wild animals are often packaged to act like cuddly little people that our Earth Day instincts tell us to protect.
–“America Gone Wild,” Wall Street Journal online, Adapted from “Nature Wars: The Incredible Story of How Wildlife Comebacks Turned
Backyards into Battlegrounds” by Jim Sterba
In North America, the whitetail deer population is estimated at 20 million. Similar densities exist in the United Kingdom.
European fallow deer were introduced to James Island, near Victoria, BC, for sport hunting at the turn of the [19th/20th] century. The population then spread to Sidney, Mayne, Saturna and Galiano Islands. The deer can cover more than 1.5 kilometres in their island-hopping expeditions. Fallow deer have voracious appetites and pose a threat to the rare Garry oak ecosystem, as well as vineyards and gardens. Black-tailed deer are endemic to the Southern Gulf Islands, as are wolves, cougars and bears. However, by the late 1800’s, Europeans had removed large predators from the region.
At these increasing densities, deer have the capacity to prevent the growth of several species of meadow plants known to have been abundant in the past, including camas,
fawn and chocolate lilies, trillium, sea blush, lupine, and wild onions. As palatable native plant species decline, it is inevitable that birds, insect pollinators and other species will also decline.
It is estimated that there are still 600 to 800 cougars on Vancouver Island. Deer in the city draw cougars into the city.
The kind thing to do, it seems, would be just to let the deer have their way. But that short-term kindness is inadvertent cruelty. In urban environments without natural population restraints, deer densities are often 10 times what they should be. That jeopardizes the health of the deer population and increases the incidence of disease and infestations of insects and ticks. . .The more deer, the more likelihood of collisions with cars. . .Death from a bolt gun might sound harsh; death by auto is far worse, with human lives also at risk.
–“Few Solutions to Deer Problem,” an editorial in Victoria’s Times Colonist newspaper, November 14, 2013
Possible Solutions (and more problems)
- Installing eight-foot fences around protected plants. However, fences must be maintained, and deer may damage or destroy them;
- Acquire a dog trained to frighten away, but not hurt, the deer;
- Shooting water or sound to frighten the deer;
- Spreading natural predators’ urine and feces in the area;
- Installing select feeding stations away from protected vegetation areas;
- Relocating the deer; however, this is costly and very stressful for the deer, who often die soon after they are moved;
- Deer culls, which are only effective if the culls continue every year;
- Contraception, however:
- the cost is high, $600 to $800 per doe;
- a large proportion of females (70 to 90%) must be treated;
- untreated deer will continue to migrate in from adjacent areas;
- deer must be captured to administer the contraceptive.This is stressful for the deer.
In May 2013, Prince Andrew was visiting Victoria to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Highland Games. Touring the gardens at Government House, the prince stopped to talk with a large group of volunteers present for his official opening of the rose garden gates.
Prince Andrew asked why there were no roses in the rose garden, one of the volunteer gardeners recalled.
We told him the deer had been eating them and that we’d like to cull the deer, but we can’t because it’s not politically correct and has not been approved by the City or the Capital Regional District.
Prince Andrew looked at the volunteers as if they were crazy, she said.
He said “It’s very simple. This is what we do at Balmoral. You just get a truck. You fill it with feed. The deer come up to it and you shoot them. It’s so simple.”
–“Princely advice on deer intruders in Government House gardens,” article in Victoria’s Times Colonist newspaper, November 29, 2014
A reader commented on my last post (The Running of the Deer): “We must find creative ways of living with nature, and allowing it to expand and thrive alongside our human life-styles.” None of the above “solutions” seems very creative to me. I welcome your comments and suggestions.