A pilot project to give birth control to deer in the Greater Victoria suburb of Oak Bay is on hold while the mayor consults with local First Nations, a delay that could set the project back a whole year.
Working to reduce and stabilize the deer population, Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society (UWSS) signed onto the provincial urban deer cost-share research program with Oak Bay council in 2016. The program funds an innovative research-based project to vaccinate deer with immuno-contraception in order to cut the birth rate.
While UWSS has the gear and plan in hand to begin the vaccination process, they failed to consult with First Nations, a requirement of the provincial permit needed to move forward.
“It was suggested to us in early September that we consult with First Nations which we are extremely happy to do and indicated we would. We didn’t recognize that there was any urgency to it. We weren’t informed that it was a condition of the permit until Monday,” said Kristy Kirkpatrick, president of the UWSS.
On Monday, they began reaching out to local First Nations.
“Consultation needs to be completed before the permit can be issued,” said a spokesperson from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “The complexity of the consultation with First Nations will depend on the level of support from First Nations for the project.”
Mayor Nils Jensen has now spoken and corresponded with the chiefs of the Songhees, Tsartlip, and Tsawout, and is waiting for calls back from two more. Kirkpatrick said the province requires Oak Bay to consult with five First Nations from the area, as the deer are on traditional lands.
The delay could derail the program until next year. With the first immuno-contraception shots having to be administered before Oct.1, ahead of rutting season, the group has just days to move forward.
“If we do not get the permit immediately and execute, we will not be able to do it this year. We would delay it a full year,” said Dr. Jason Fisher.
“We are cautiously optimistic that we will be out within the next few days, so our fingers are crossed for that. But everything is still in play,” said Kirkpatrick.
Immuno-contraception (IC) is a type of vaccine that induces the deer to produce antibodies that prevent fertilization and the formation of an embryo. The IC vaccine has to be administered annually.
The use of immuno-contraceptives to manage urban deer is a new approach for B.C. and this pilot project will inform whether or not this method can be used as an effective management tool.
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