If you saw the now familiar orange safety vests and a man
carrying what looks like a rifle (he’s a wildlife veterinarian and it’s a dart
projector!) you’ll know that our field team was once again out in the field
The purpose of the fieldwork was two-fold. One was to check the fit of the collars
placed on 40 does in the Fall of 2019. The
second purpose of being in the field this winter/spring was to re-mark a
Because we were out in the field again to capture a control group, we used the opportunity to double-check on collar fit. There were some concerns voiced from the community that the collars used to identify does that have received immuno-contraception are too snug, and we have been following those concerns up diligently. We checked on many of the does that were specifically reported to us since September with concerns of a too snug collar, and Dr. Hering, our wildlife veterinarian, was able to report that in fact the collars are fitting well. Nine does were re-captured, their necks re-measured to look for growth and that the collars are not causing any problems. None of the collars that were checked are fitting too snugly or appear to be causing the animals any problems and so it was not necessary to replace or remove any collars because of inappropriate fit. The fit is very similar to that of a dog collar on a dog, which is what he was aiming for. However the collars can appear to fit snugger than they actually are, due to winter fur growth.
Although from a distance it can look as though a collar is too snug, when you’re up close it is much easier to tell how much room there actually is under the collar. Dr. Hering has been really pleased with how the deer’s necks look with the identification collars, there is far less chafing than with the much looser GPS collars used on the original control group!
Our original control group of 20 (down to 17 due to mortalities)
were wearing GPS collars (those loose ones with the big bling!) that were timed
to automatically drop off this February and March. Due to an unexpected provincial requirement
that delayed immuno-contraception by a year, we need a control group for at
least another year. So, as the original
collars “blow” off, we re-captured some of the same animals (and in some cases
new animals), for 18 does in total, and fit them with new colourful marker collars. These collars are even more light weight than
the originals, have only 2 smaller tags, and were provided to us by Margo
a family-owned and operated company with over 35 years of safe, effective,
non-lethal wildlife management solutions.
We have loved the privilege of working with Margo Supplies.
If you see an animal with pink tags on her collar you will
know that she is a control animal and was not given contraception this
Impact of COVID-19
Although we had hoped to re-mark 20 does and do a few more
collar checks (we’ve also been taking a blood sample to help determine
pregnancy rates, results not in), due to COVID-19 and the health guidelines for
physical distancing, we have wrapped up field work until September 2020 when we
will head out again to booster the does that received IC in the Fall of 2019,
and give a primary vaccine to up to 60 new does.
In the meantime, we hope you and your families and friends keep
healthy and safe.
Dr. Jason Fisher, lead scientist of the Oak Bay Urban Deer Research Project.
The current Oak Bay Urban Deer Research Project has been funded by the Province of BC and the District of Oak Bay, in partnership with the volunteer, non-profit Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society.
We’re so pleased that the Province has once again provided a grant through the Provincial Urban Deer Cost-Share Program , this year in the amount of $42,366.00, to support the continuation of this important deer management initiative.
The grant will, as stated by the District of Oak Bay, “enable (the district) to continue its partnership with the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society (UWSS) to deliver research-informed urban deer immuno-contraception. Work in 2020 will include re-marking the control group, re-boostering does vaccinated in 2019, administering further primary vaccinations and boosters and collecting and further analyzing data”. This will include post-IC data.
The UWSS appreciates the support of the Province and the District of Oak Bay. For more information, please go to https://www.oakbay.ca/municipal-hall/news/deer-management-grant-funding.
As another year of changing seasons comes to a close, the UWSS would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or perhaps just simply a celebration of the beauty, peace and balance that we so often find in nature.
We are sharing this video that reminds us of the unseen movements of wildlife, captured by a camera similar to the ones used in the current urban deer project we are conducting.
May the next year bring joy and happiness to you all.
May the next year bring happiness and joy to you all.
Over the past two years, you may have got used to seeing 20 does wandering around with collars that have four large tags in a variety of colours hanging from their necks. These deer are the control group for the Oak Bay Urban Deer Research Project and the collars are equipped with GPS, which has allowed our research team to track the does and collect data on their movement patterns, numbers, density and more.
This fall, 60 does, not including the control group, received an immuno-contraceptive (IC) vaccine. In order to be able to evaluate the impact of IC on the deer population, these does were fitted with a simple collar, as well as ear tags. The collars and ear tags are colour coded in order to allow for individual identification and give our researchers precise information.
The two collars fit very differently. The 20 GPS collars are quite loose, to allow for movement of the collar when the deer are moving and eating, due to the GPS “box” and the tags.
The IC collars do not have a large GPS box on them, or tags. Instead, the identification system is based on the colour of the collars, and the colour of two numbered ear tags that were also put on the does (along with one small provincial tag). These collars fit high on the neck and are quite snug to reduce chafing – we are always looking for ways to ensure the comfort of the deer. The fit of these collars minimizes movement as it’s not necessary without the tags and GPS box. The collars fit like a dog collar, allowing for two/three fingers to slide comfortably under the collar. They were fitted very carefully by our wildlife veterinarian, Dr. Hering.
We have had a few concerned citizens contact us that the collars seem too snug, and that the neck of the doe is “bulging” over the collar. Dr. Hering followed up on one such sighting a few weeks ago, and he was still able to easily slide his fingers under the collar – it was just the winter fur that has grown in since the field work that made it look snugger. He was happy to report that the fur and skin under the collar were in good shape.
Despite the collars appearing very snug, a few of the collars may have still been loose enough to slip down the neck a little bit, in fact unintentionally tightening them. We don’t think this is an issue and that it’s still the fur that creates the illusion of the collars appearing overly snug. However we have really appreciated citizens taking photos and letting us know of their concerns so that we can follow up. We recently had a reporting of a doe in the Falkland area that Dr. Hering would like to check out. If you see her, please note the colour of her collar and ear tags and send us an email at email@example.com so that we can locate her and have Dr. Hering evaluate.
Some people have also expressed concern that the collars will tighten as young deer grow. The collars on younger deer were fitted a bit more loosely to allow for growing over the winter. The collars all have a “rot off” so that over time the elements will cause the material to break down and the collars will drop off. For more information on the collars please go to https://uwss.ca/faqs-about-collars/ .
As always, we are grateful for the involvement of the community in this project. Our goal is to provide evidence-based, scientific information without compromising the deer. Their well-being is our first priority. If you do see a doe that concerns you, please contact us. It would be very helpful if you could note the collar colour and ear tag colour/number if possible. If you can safely take a photo, that would also be very helpful.
The Climate Emergency has an impact on all of us, often in ways we don’t necessarily recognize. Alina Fisher, communications expert for the UWSS (UVic PhD student), is a signatory on the open letter in the journal BioScience, signed by 11,258 scientists from 153 countries, declaring “clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency”.
In a recent Globe and Mail Article https://www.theglobeandmail.com/world/article-thousands-of-scientists-sign-open-letter-declaring-earth-is-facing-a/, Alina states “People do understand [climate change], but they don’t see how it affects them. It’s important for us as scientists to bridge that gap.”
We know that the climate emergency is necessitating change everywhere, including our local communities. For instance, while people are looking for deer resistant plants for their gardens, what is often actually occurring is that past staples of the garden are being replaced with drought resistant plants – often with a return to native plants.
Although the indigenous Black-tailed deer have always been here, we don’t know exactly why their numbers have increased. There is a common belief that loss of their natural habitat is one of the most likely culprits, but we can also infer that Climate Change has had an impact too, with one outcome being a longer fawning season.
These are questions that our own scientists and others seek the answers to, and we hope that the Oak Bay Urban Deer Research Project might help us answer some questions, and see how the Climate Emergency affects not just us, but the wildlife that we are learning to once again co-exist with. We’re grateful to Alina for helping to bridge the gap between understanding climate change and recognizing the impact in our communities.