Calling all local citizen scientists and wildlife photographers—a science-based project related to deer abundance in Oak Bay needs your help.

The Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society (UWSS) is doing a photo inventory of urban deer in Oak Bay. Similar to how killer whales can be identified through marks on and behind their dorsal fins, black-tailed deer can also be identified by scars, nicks, limps and other features unique to each individual.

The inventory will contribute to a better understanding of deer numbers in Oak Bay, and their movement patterns, says Bryan Gates, president of the UWSS and a former wildlife biologist with the BC government.

“No one knows how many deer live in Oak Bay. For some people, there are too many, for others there are not too many. That will never change,” says Gates. “Our photo inventory should give us some reliable estimates, and over time may show trends in numbers.”

For now, the emphasis for the photo inventory is on antlered bucks in the winter season. The size and shape of antlers varies from buck to buck, making it relatively easy to identify individual deer. But time is short—bucks typically lose their antlers early in the new year.

This is why photos taken from now to late January will be particularly useful. Good quality, digital photos can be taken by anyone. Head-on photos with ears spread are best. Send them by email to: It’s important that the date and exact location (approximate street address) be included with each submission.

These two photos of mature bucks in Oak Bay show how photography can help with deer identity for research, population estimates, seasonal and daily movement patterns, and even for mortality information.

Although the immediate focus is on the bucks, photos of female and yearling deer are also welcome. Missing or damaged ear tissue, is sometimes obvious. Most cuts, scars and tears, especially on the ears, will last and can provide useful identification features throughout the life of the animal.

“We invite everyone with an interest in urban wildlife, and especially deer, to get involved and help us gather this much-needed information,” says Gates. “With a broad set of easily identifiable individuals, repeated and frequent road-side counts of deer can contribute to a reliable estimate of the total population within the community. And that’s an essential first step to responsible management.”

Gates adds that photographers should take care not to approach deer too closely or startle them near a roadway.

Submitted photos will be be posted on the UWSS website.

The UWSS, formed in spring 2015, is a citizen-led, science-based organization committed to implementing effective, sustainable and non-lethal solutions to human-deer conflicts in Oak Bay, the CRD and other urban areas.


%d bloggers like this: