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The growing deer population on the Gulf Islands is threatening ecosystems, according to a UBC researcher (CBC)

In a new study, University of British Columbia conservation biologist Peter Arcese said deer are disrupting the delicate balance of the ecosystem on B.C.'s Gulf Islands, threatening the natural vegetation.

Arcese — who has been studying the islands' ecosystems for three decades — said as natural predators and human hunters have disappeared, the deer population has increased. He said an imbalance has been created that's shrinking the number and diversity of plants and shrubs.

Arcese said island communities need to look into ways to alleviate the stress on the environment by reducing the number of deer.

The options, he said, include sterilizing the animals or allowing deer hunting on the Gulf Islands, something that's currently banned.

"If we don't address this issue pretty quickly, we are likely to end up with more rare and endangered species in the future, leading to all kinds of social costs," he said.   

Island Trustee member Janine Dodds agreed something has to be done to reduce the deer population on the islands.

"We simply can't have a lot of different people out there with firearms by any means. I think we need to go slow and we need to be very conservative on how we do it, but we do need to get a plan in place," Dodds said.