British Columbia

60 female deer given birth control in Oak Bay

A veterinarian has just finished vaccinating female deer in Oak Bay, B.C., as part of a multi-year study on population control. Deer are ubiquitous in the community, and bothersome, but there are hopes the contraception program will help change that.

Deer were vaccinated against pregnancy for a study into population control in the Greater Victoria district

Oak Bay just wrapped its first season of a birth control experiment, designed to manage its deer population. (Georgie Smyth/CBC )

Dozens of female deer in Oak Bay have been vaccinated to prevent them from having offspring, in hopes of limiting the number of fawns born in the community.

Urban deer have long been a nuisance in the Greater Victoria municipality, where they can jump in front of bikes and cars, destroy fences and gardens, and even attack people

"I think everybody would be very happy if we got to the point where we saw a deer and were like 'A deer! how magical,'" said Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch about how ubiquitous the animals are.

The deer contraception program, which just wrapped up its first season, inoculated 60 female deer with a vaccine meant to act as birth control.

The hope is it will start to shrink the urban deer population, while researchers are carefully studying the project to see if it might set a new standard for managing urban deer populations. 

The district and the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society (UWSS), a citizen group, are working together to track and control the population. It estimates that up to 128 deer live across Oak Bay, which is 10.5 square-kilometres in size.

Two deer, including one with a collar for a monitoring program, in Oak Bay on Nov. 1, 2019. (Kathryn Marlow/CBC)

This fall, volunteers helped veterinarian Adam Hering find does, which he would then tranquilize, collar, and vaccinate. Residents registered their properties in advance, to give Hering and the volunteers permission to enter their yards to reach the deer. 

Effectiveness

Hering says the vaccine should be 80 to 90 per cent effective, but he won't really know until spring. 

"Really next year during fawning season is when we'll start to see the fawns hit the ground and we'll see whether our vaccinated girls had their fawns or not," he said.

Veterinarian Adam Hering worked with the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society to track and administer contraceptives to 60 does in Oak Bay, in the fall of 2019. (Kathryn Marlow/CBC)

As part of its work, the UWSS placed cameras around town to monitor deer. The cameras, and GPS collars, will help it keep track of how many of the vaccinated does get pregnant, versus an unvaccinated control group. 

In the meantime, the District of Oak Bay is applying to the province for $42,000 in additional funding, through its urban deer management program, to continue the study next year.

So far, the district has spent close to $100,000, which has been matched by the province. 

Murdoch says other mayors in the Greater Victoria region are interested in getting involved too.

In Oak Bay, B.C., an out-of-control deer population is causing big problems. 2:35