British Columbia

Birth control plan for Oak Bay deer hits snag

A plan to put deer on birth control is in question after the B.C. government called for more study before it will consider sharing the cost.

Province balks at funding untested contraceptive scheme to reduce deer population

Oak Bay's deer cull pilot project in 2015 killed 11 deer and prompted calls for non-lethal population control. (Germán Poo-Caamaño/Flickr)

A plan to put deer on birth control in the Victoria suburb of Oak Bay has hit a snag.

Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen says the B.C. government is calling for more study before it will consider sharing the cost for the plan.

Last month, Oak Bay Council asked for $20,000 from the province.

Communities elsewhere in the province have received provincial funding for deer culls.

Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen says the municipality is the only place in the province proposing a non-lethal method of controlling problem deer populations. (Twitter)

"We appear to be the only community in British Columbia at this point that are looking at a non-lethal alternative to cull for deer management," Jensen said.

"Should Oak Bay go forward with a successful fertility control program it can become a model for the rest of the province."

In 2015, Oak Bay tried a deer cull to reduce the deer population. The regional deer management pilot project killed 11 deer but drew strong opposition from the B.C. SPCA and other animal rights groups.

Contraceptive injection proposed

The current plan is to partner with a local stewardship group to trap and inject female deer with an immunocontraceptive serum. 

Provincial staff say only one contraceptive drug has ever been used in B.C.and it's not currently in production, so a safe alternative needs to be identified for black-tailed deer.

Other details that need to be worked out include specifics on methods to capture the deer and administer the drug.

Jensen said Oak Bay plan should get conditional approval as a pilot project.

"These urban deer are owned by the province," Jensen said.  "They really have shown a reluctance in the last few years to really do something about it."

To be effective, Jensen said the deer fertility-control program must start three or four months before mating season in September and October.

Several other B.C. communities have received funding for deer culls.

If financial support from the province is not forthcoming, he said, the fertility-control project won't proceed.

Culls, relocation approved elsewhere

"We'd have to go back to the drawing board for council," he said.

"Our proceeding to this point was conditional on a joint province-local government initiative."

Grand Forks, Invermere and Elford have received provincial funds for deer culls. Cranbrook will also receive funds to study relocation.

With files from Megan Thomas