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.
As Hallowe’en came and went, the immuno-contraception(IC) portion of the science-based Oak Bay Urban Deer Research Project came to a close for this year. What a successful September and October it’s been!
However, prior to the field work beginning in early September, there was a great deal of “behind the scenes” work, with Dr. Jason Fisher leading the research on strategies for studying deer populations, densities, space use, habitat selection, distribution and movement patterns. This research is an incredibly important component of this multi-year research project as it gives not only this community but others, information on urban Columbian Black-tailed deer ecology that has not been known before. All of this information is helping wildlife biologists, the province and other communities understand more about the indigenous urban deer populations in our midst. It’s important to remember that while many of us rarely saw deer in urban setting as recently as 10 years ago, they have been on this land for thousands of years, as indicated in First Nations historical records.
To that point, we are proud to have received the endorsement of the Songhees Nation for IC as the best management tool for the indigenous black-tailed deer population.
A first set of data, collected from twenty GPS collared does and 39 motion sensitive cameras was analyzed last winter (see preliminary report https://uwss.ca/our-research/ ) , and an expanded dataset will be analyzed this coming winter and after fawning season ends next summer. The next set of data will help our wildlife scientists better understand the fawning rate and population structure (e.g. ratio of bucks, does, and fawns in the population).
While the important research continues, the next step was to actually provide IC to does this fall, with the number of does determined based on the initial dataset. Although we had a permit to IC up to 80 does, we knew from the preliminary report that that would be the high end of the number of does, particularly as a control group of 20 does does not receive IC. However we were prepared to treat as many as we could in the short window available for IC field work.
So what did IC actually involve? Between early September and the end of October, wildlife veterinarian Dr. Adam Hering, along with a volunteer field team including other wildlife veterinarians, Dr. Jason Fisher, and his team of wildlife biologists, grad students and community members, sedated and then administered an immuno-contraceptive to 60 does.
While the does were sedated and their vital signs carefully monitored, the field teams took blood and fur samples that are sent to the Province for analysis. The does were then collared and ear-tagged with colour codes for individual identification before the sedation was reversed. Beginning in mid-September and right through to the end of October, all but three of those 60 does received a booster shot that increases the efficacy of the vaccine to between 85 – 95%.
This means that next spring, we expect that only the does that did not receive a vaccine, as there were some, and the control group, will give birth to fawns. The post IC data collection will give us important information but it’s likely that there could be a reduction in the fawing rate by approximately 60 to 90 fawns (the younger ones would only have given birth to one fawn, and those that have reached their 4th birthday would likely have had twins).
Of the 60 does, 8 were fitted with a prototype GPS collar that we are testing for Margo Supplies, an Alberta company that works to provide proven solutions to wildlife management challenges. Margo Supplies has worked with both Dr. Fisher and Dr. Hering in the past, and we were delighted to have the opportunity to trial these lightweight and innovative collars – another example of how so many stakeholders have come together to develop and implement a scientifically-based urban deer non-lethal deer management strategy.
As of October 31st, this first year of IC came to a close. This is because there is a small window of time that we have to vaccinate does – after fawning season and the summer, but before rutting season begins, usually at the end of October. Our provincial permit therefore expired on October 31, and a new one will be applied for when we next go out into the field. We see signs that rutting season has begun now, and this is a good opportunity to remind everyone to give bucks lots of space over the next month – please go to our website https://uwss.ca/about-our-deer/ for information on how to reduce human-deer conflict.
The urban deer project in Oak Bay is funded by the municipality, the Province of BC, and through the volunteer work of the UWSS. It’s a research initiative, with the key focus continuing to be the collection and analysis of data that continually informs next steps. The community engagement has been overwhelming, with over 650 home-owners allowing field work to occur on their property, and citizen scientists helping locate deer for vaccinations and boostering.
The work of the UWSS as part of the unique three-way partnership (four including the community!) is being widely recognized as a positive and hopeful approach to managing urban deer. Continuing with this cutting edge and innovative research project led by Dr. Fisher will be key to ensuring its success, and will benefit not just Oak Bay, but also other communities across the CRD, BC and Canada, that are struggling with managing urban deer populations.
During late-fall’s rutting season, any “street sense” our urban bucks have developed is likely lost in a hormone-induced haze.
Their behaviour can seem irrational, but really they’re just single-minded. It’s important to be aware they might run out into the road, when that wouldn’t be their usual behaviour. They’re likely not even seeing you, they’re just following a doe’s scent, and if they see a doe or are following a scent, they’re not paying attention to anything else around them.
With that in mind, it’s important drivers, cyclists and others pay attention, especially around dawn and dusk, when deer tend to be more active.
While bucks are only interested in other deer, it’s best to keep your distance as you would with any wildlife:
- When walking, give bucks extra space – Because a deer’s natural response to danger is to run, always leave it an escape route far away from yourself. Keep dogs on a leash and if you encounter a deer, keep your dog pulled in close to you, stop it barking if you can, and walk away from the deer to give it more distance. Always check your yard carefully for deer before letting your dog out.
- When driving, watch the roadside – Drive as though you were in a playground or school zone; pay extra attention and reduce speed, especially when driving in unfamiliar areas at dawn and dusk. Scan ahead, looking for movement or shining eyes at the roadside.
- When cycling, give yourself time and space – Take plenty of room so you can react to any unpredictable movement. If its safe to do so, pull out from the curb and give the deer a wide berth. Slow down, and just like a driver, scan ahead, looking for movement.
You might also see bucks rubbing their antlers on trees and fighting each other in demonstrations of strength. This can be loud and seem aggressive, so keep your distance from these paramours!
Election day may be coming up, but don’t forget to exercise your right to vote in our photo contest by 9am on October 19th!
Take a look at our gallery of 32 stunning photographs and choose up to ten of your favourite finalists; voting is by donation. While you’re there, pre-order a calendar featuring the 12 winning photographs, and/or cast a bid in our blind ballot auction to own a framed exhibition piece.
One lucky voter will win a night out to the Belfry Theatre with dinner at the Fernwood Inn, followed by dessert and champagne at Stages Wine Bar.
Thank you for supporting the UWSS in its work, and the artists behind each photograph. We couldn’t do what we do without our community.
Join us for the Exhibition Opening of our Photo Contest finalists! Enjoy a hot mug of apple cider and peruse the three categories: Wildlife, Natural Landscapes & Gardens of Victoria.
When? Oct 5 from 1-4pm
Where? 1442 Monterey Ave
Can’t make it? The photos will be displayed until the Awards Ceremony on October 19, or you can view our online gallery at uwss/photo-contest/. Vote for your favourite photo and and even win your own framed Exhibition Piece by casting a bid in our blind ballot.
It’s sure to be a photo finish!
The teams in the orange vests that you’ve been seeing out in the early hours of the morning have now successfully immuno-contracepted (IC) 51 deer, in less than three weeks! We have been finding the deer exactly where the preliminary report said we would, in the areas where there are the highest densities of deer, such as in the Uplands, around the golf courses, and some areas of South Oak Bay.
The field team, led by our wildlife veterinarian Dr. Adam Hering and our lead scientist, Dr. Jason Fisher, have used the same method of sedation that was used when we GPS collared 20 does in spring 2018. The deer are darted with a sedative, blindfolded once sedated, blood and fur samples are taken for the province, and after the necessary work is completed, a reversal drug is given that has the doe back on her feet within minutes.
This time however, while the doe is under sedation, we have also placed matching small tags in each ear, with a lasered number on them. There is also a smaller provincial tag which we’re required to mark the does with.
Along with being numbered, the tags are colour coded in an identification scheme that matches with a simple, coloured collar. These are not GPS collars and have no tags, their purpose is to help our wildlife biologists individually identify each doe both on the camera array spread across Oak Bay, and when we are looking for the does in order to give them an IC booster.
The identification collars fit high on the doe’s neck, and fit more snugly than the GPS collars. This is to minimize the chafing we noticed on some of the deer with the GPS collars. While the chafing is not a problem because the fur grows back in, we are always looking for ways to minimize the discomfort for these animals that we handle for the purposes of this cutting-edge research project.
To that end, we also inject lidocaine in each ear that numbs them for several hours so that the does don’t feel any pain from their colourful new ear piercings!
We expect to soon complete the first round of vaccinations on the does and then 2 – 6 weeks after the initial injection they will require a booster shot to maximize the efficacy of the immuno-contraceptive. The does don’t need to be sedated for the booster shot, so as long as we can re-locate them, the process will go quickly.
For more information on IC, please visit our FAQ page. If you have questions, or see a doe that is having an issue with her collar or ear, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re out and about in the early hours of the morning in Oak Bay these days, you may spy a cluster of orange vests hard at work. It’s a significant moment for Oak Bay and the UWSS, as once again we’re out in the field – this time to administer an immuno-contraceptive vaccine (IC) to does in the Oak Bay area. Through our field research, we now know there are approximately 100 deer in Oak Bay. We estimate that around 60% – 70% are female, and we are aiming to vaccinate as many of these as we can before the rutting season begins in late October.
The municipality has been very helpful and we have over 500 property owners who have provided us with advance permission to access their property to IC – this will be a big help in streamlining the process! If you would like to complete a permission form, please go to https://www.oakbay.ca/our-community/news-media/spotlight/urban-deer or for more information on IC, please check out our FAQ page at: https://uwss.ca/faq/ .
If you do see our field team in those bright orange vests please give them space, and slow down if you’re in a vehicle so that the deer don’t startle.
And remember our photo contest – we are accepting entries until September 20! https://uwss.ca/photo-contest/
If you’ve seen the poster for our photo contest and you’re wondering why this small, non-profit organization fundraises, well…
Although a portion of the UWSS’s research in Oak Bay and Esquimalt is funded by the province and/or the district, much of our work is dependent on donations and the support of people, like you, in our community.
Fundraising and donations are important elements that allow us to (among many other things):
- Raise public awareness on how to reduce human-deer conflict,
- Provide over 1,500 “Caution Expect Deer” signs and;
- Expand on our cutting-edge research.
One fun way you can get involved is by entering our first ever photo contest! Whether a seasoned shutterbug or new behind the camera, we want to see the natural world through your eyes.
Yes, the UWSS may be currently focused on urban deer, but we are the Urban Wildlife stewardship society and care about all creatures.
This philosophy is personified by our very own lead scientist Dr. Jason Fisher, who was featured in a recent Oak Bay News article on the importance of wildlife corridors that connect protected areas. Jason supervised the research of UVic PhD graduate Frances Stewart as she tracked 10 fishers using biologging technology.
Sound familiar? While the study was based in the Beaver Hills biosphere of Alberta, the fishers apparently share some travelling habits of Oak Bay’s indigenous deer. But the corridors for deer are often busy roads and crossing from one area to another can be treacherous.
Fortunately, if people are driving the speed limit (or slower, in the areas where they expect deer) and scanning ahead, the chances of an accident are greatly reduced. From fishers to deer, let’s keep our wildlife safe!
Debbie Warren, Senior Engineering Project Manager (and resident of Oak Bay) presents $750 each to the Oak Bay Green Committee’s Felicity Bradley and Pamela Mountjoy of the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society on behalf of Coun. Eric Zhelka who won the donation at the AVICC, alongside Mayor Kevin Murdoch. (Courtesy Eric Zhelka)
At the annual conference of the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities, elected officials from communities within the FortisBC service area were invited to enter a draw for a donation of $1,500 from Fortis BC, to be made to a non-profit group.
Councillor Eric Zhelka from the Oak Bay Municipality was the lucky ballot selected, and he is sharing this donation between the UWSS and the Oak Bay Green Committee. The cheque was presented to the UWSS at the July 22 Oak Bay Council Meeting and was accepted by UWSS Board Member Pamela Mountjoy.
Councillor Zhelka has always supported the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society and the important research that they are conducting in Oak Bay. He says that both the UWSS and the OBGS are “groups of volunteers that do a great deal of unsung work, that, thanks to Fortis BC, we will be able to bring to light”.
The UWSS would very much like to thank Councillor Zhelka and FortisBC for this thoughtful donation that will help substantially with the current Oak Bay research and immuno-contraception project.