Love is in the air!

Love is in the air!


Thanksgving PROur friends at Watch For Wildlife (W4W) have a reminder for all of us now that it’s that time of year again. “That time of year” means rutting time when bucks are looking for romance. Mating season can cause deer to be bolder and less apprehensive of people. And since they’re a bit preoccupied looking for a lovely doe, they may cross roads more carelessly.

Deer are most active at dawn and dusk, and as the days are getting shorter it means drivers are on the roads more often at this time. Coupled with an increased boldness of bucks during the rut, it’s important that drivers take a few steps to reduce the likelihood of collisions, including:

  • pay extra attention while driving and obey the speed limit, especially where visibility may be reduced, or in areas that you aren’t familiar with the road
  • scan ahead and look for movement or the reflection of eyes from the side of the road
  • slow down if you see an animal, even a slight reduction in speed can give an animal enough time to get out of the way

For more information and tips on how to reduce vehicle-wildlife collisions, visit W4W at

Father’s Day Garden Party Tour

Father’s Day Garden Party Tour

Join us on Sunday, June 17 for a Father’s Day Garden Party Tour. All proceeds from the event will support the BC SPCA’s Wild ARC and the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society (UWSS) for local wildlife care, wildlife research and veterinary services.


  • Eight lovely Oak Bay gardens – featuring a wide variety of styles – English, urban, wild, native, low maintenance, large and expansive, small and cozy.
  • Afternoon Tea served 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Windsor Pavilion.
  • Silent Ballot Auction at the pavilion with lots of great prizes – don’t miss out!
  • UWSS and Wild ARC representatives will be at the pavilion to answer questions and share information.
  • Alternative plant sale – a selection of drought and deer-resistant plants will be on sale at the pavilion
  • Master gardeners will be on site to answer plant related questions and share ideas throughout the tour at the pavilion.

Silent Auction includes some fantastic products donated from this list of generous donors;

A Pet’s Life
Absolute Therapy
Belfry Theatre
Bespoke Design Ltd.
Bosley’s Oak Bay
BoulderHouse Climbing
Capital Iron
Cedar Hill Golf Club
Cherry Point Estate Wines
Clipper Vacations
Cold Comfort
Cook’s Day Off
CVS Tours
Dermal Integrity
Eagle Wing Whale & Wildlife Tours
GardenWorks Oak Bay
Good Things Consignments
Harbour Air
Mesa Familiar
MOSI Bakery
Café & Gelateria
Murchie’s Fine Tea & Coffee
Oak Bay Beach Hotel

Oak Bay Bicycles
Oak Bay Recreation Center
Oaklands Veterinary Hospital
Ottavio Italian Bakery & Delicatessen
Padella Kitchen + Wine
The Parkside Spa
Penny Farthing Public House
Prestige Carwash & Auto Detailing
Red Hot Swing Dance
Royal & McPherson Theatre Society
Serious Coffee
Side Street Studio
Silk Road Tea
Stage Wine Bar
Victoria Butterfly Gardens
Victoria Gin Distillery
Victoria Royals hockey team
Westcoasters BC
Western Speedway
Wildwood Outdoor Living Centre at Canor Nursery
Windsor Café

In person (cash only) ticket sales at:

  • Garden Works, 1916 Oak Bay Avenue
  • Ivy’s Bookstore, 2188 Oak Bay Avenue
  • Thorn and Thistle Flower Shop, 713 St. Patrick Street
  • BC SPCA, 3150 Napier Lane

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It’s all about the bling! Tracking urban deer to manage human-wildlife conflicts

It’s all about the bling! Tracking urban deer to manage human-wildlife conflicts

The UWSS was so pleased to have the expertise of Dr. Joanna Burgar on our field team for the first week of the capture and GPS collar phase of the Oak Bay/Provincial/UWSS project! Dr. Burgar specializes in wildlife and restoration ecology. Please read her blog post on tracking urban deer to manage human-wildlife conflicts: It’s all about the bling! Tracking urban deer to manage human-wildlife conflicts.


Urban Deer Research Project Successfully Tags 20 Does

Urban Deer Research Project Successfully Tags 20 Does

The capture and collar phase of an innovative new approach to managing urban deer in Oak Bay wrapped up last month having hit all its targets.

Managed by the Victoria-based Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society (UWSS) and powered by a team of scientists, wildlife veterinarians, biologists, graduate students, animal behaviourists and community volunteers, the project captured, radio-collared and released 20 does within the municipality of Oak Bay Feb. 18–March 23, 2018. It’s the next step towards a UWSS program to start later this year—testing the effectiveness of contraceptives to manage urban deer populations.

The first phase of the program will provide important information on the ecology of urban deer that has not been known before now.  An understanding of movement patterns, density, and population size will be developed.

Twenty does were successfully sedated and assessed by an experienced wildlife vet and an expert wildlife biologist and their team. Sedated does were fitted with GPS collars with colour-coded tags for future identification—all weighing less than 1 lb. in total. After being fitted with their collars, a reversal drug was administered and the does were monitored until they were on their feet and stable.  Once the doe was sedated, the entire process took no more than half an hour. Five bucks were also ear tagged, but were not fitted with GPS collars.

Images of deer, collared or not, are being collected both through 1) voluntary submissions by Oak Bay residents, and 2) captured by trail cameras throughout Oak Bay that have been placed with homeowners permission. These data will be compiled and analyzed along with the GPS data, to give an accurate “picture” of urban deer population size and space use in the community.

The second phase of the project aims to gradually reduce the population of indigenous Columbian black-tailed deer in Oak Bay to sustainable levels through a science-based, non-lethal approach. A contraceptive vaccine will be administered to female deer, preventing fawn births without creating vacant territory into which other deer can move. If successful, the project will serve as an effective, community-supported template for urban deer management around North America.

The scientific research is required prior to implementing a non-lethal deer reduction program and is funded by the District of Oak Bay and the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources and Rural Development through the Provincial Urban Deer Shared Cost Program. The work is being conducted by the UWSS, a volunteer non-profit society of biologists, animal specialists, educators, and professionals.

The UWSS would like to thank homeowners, Oak Bay Council, our team of volunteers, and the Oak Bay community for their support. Please watch for information on our upcoming Garden Tour on June 17!

To find out more, and to submit citizen science photos of the deer you see around Oak Bay, please visit

Media contacts:

Steve Huxter – 250-812-6062

Kristy Kilpatrick – 250-213-8733


Deer oh Deer

Deer oh Deer

creepy-deer-gif-13When you think of deer within a city, do you think of the sweet little Bambi out for a walk in the corner park with his mom? Or do you think about a terrifying, aggressive stag with red eyes of fury?

In the lovely municipality of Oak Bay, I am taking part in a study of urban deer. Urban wildlife, and their management, is an interesting topic ecologically speaking. But it’s also fascinating in terms of public perception, because many people vocal about urban deer management either see the deer as sweet little Bambis (or is it Bambii), or as menacing beasts.

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In many cities, like Oak Bay, urban deer management assumes that there are too many deer—likely the menacing, scary kind, because who would be upset about a bunch of sweet little Bambis. But in truth, we really don’t know how many deer there are within the city. And so, the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society have spearheaded a project to scientifically assess the status of the urban deer population in Oak Bay. To do this, deer are radio collared and tagged, and a few biological samples are taken (a couple small vials of blood, a tuft of hair, and some fecal pellets). The radio collars will give us a real-time data of where the deer are and what areas they spend their time in. There is also an array of camera traps laid out in Oak Bay, which gives us a record of deer at those specific camera locations. Of course those tags also make visual ID possible in real time as well as on camera trap photos. The blood and fecal samples will allow us to look at genetic relatedness between individuals, parasite load, etc – all important measures of the health of the population and of individuals.

So why all those samples? You may see deer on the front lawn of someone’s house as you drive by, but does that mean they are actually using that habitat, or are they merely passing through on their way to their preferred patches—like having to drive through the bad part of town to go to your favourite restaurant? An urban environment is different from a wild habitat (roads, fences, gardens, etc.), so what habitats urban deer actually use may differ significantly from what they would select in the wild. In the wild, home ranges for deer can be quite large (~140 to 1,770 ha.), but do urban deer move around that much or is the landscape so food-rich for them that they end up having small home range sizes instead? I certainly wouldn’t move around much if I were surrounded by all you can eat buffets. 

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Also, when one person counts 5 deer in a group, and another person counts 3 deer a block away, does that mean that there are 8 deer? Or was that group of 3 part of  the larger group of 5 deer? The difference between 5 deer and 8 deer really isn’t much, but when you have many observers counting deer, strangely the counts increase based on;

  1. the number of observers and
  2. the amount of time they spend doing the counts.

You can see this same effect with the annual flower count here in Victoria – every year more flowers are counted, at the same time as the number of observers increases. Are the flowers in Victoria truly increasing year after year, or is it more likely that people are counting the same flowers more than once? And plants don’t get up and move like deer do—unless we’re talking about Ents… The same issue happens with counting urban wildlife – is there an observer effect artificially inflating the number of deer, or are there really that many deer? The difference between 5 deer and 8 deer isn’t much, but the difference between 50 deer and 500 deer is quite significant. So this will give us an idea of the real population size of the deer, their use of the habitat, and health of the population. This will allow Oak Bay to make scientifically informed management decisions.


Urban wildlife management is an interesting subject not only in terms the science behind the decision-making, but also in terms of public perception as well. Wildlife management is usually based on scientific recommendations, however in urban settings wildlife management is a very divisive issue. Some people love wildlife and enjoy seeing deer or raccoons in their backyards, while on the other end of the spectrum, some people feel the wildlife are like vermin and should be eradicated (Monty Python teaches us not to underestimate a cute little bunny). Most people fall somewhere in the middle of these polarized opinions, but the potential costs of living with urban wildlife is what usually makes the opinion sections of local newspapers. More deer within city limits may pose collision risks to drivers and can be costly for avid gardeners to replace browsed on plant specimens. However, deer are being forced to live within our cities because we’re expanding our urban footprint and development into their wilderness habitat. Because of the increased observations of deer within cities, it may appear like deer populations are exploding, even though black-tailed deer populations are actually in steep decline overall.


The different polarized public opinions around urban wildlife may be due in part to the perceived risk posed by wildlife. People fear that their pets may be at risk of being attacked and killed by urban coyotes for example. But in Calgary, coyote scat analysis revealed that less than 1% showed any evidence consuming dogs or cats, whereas 80% of scat consisted of small mammals (likely playing a significant role controlling mice and rats). Deer aren’t likely to eat a backyard pet (whew!), but there are plenty of people upset if their gardens are damaged, or that feel intimidated when a large buck wanders into their yard. It’s hard to quantify just how many vehicular collisions are caused by deer alonewithin city limits, but between 2012-2016 ICBC shows that across Vancouver Island, collisions with all animals (including wildlife and domestic) accounts for 2,000 accidents annually—though thankfully there were no motorist fatalities over that 5 year period. Fourty-three deer died in Oak Bay as a result of vehicular collisions in 2014, and at the very least, it is a costly prospect for motorists to repair vehicles. It would be curious to know if these collisions with deer happen significantly more often than with other animals, or if it just happens to be salient to the public because of the media attention these collisions bring. I for one, can’t think of a single example where a collisions with a dog made the news.

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I can’t say whether the Oak Bay deer populations are as small or as large as some residents claim. But hopefully this scientific research will give us all real numbers to inform discussions on management options with Oak Bay home owners and residents. Whether the deer population of Oak Bay are indeed too large, pose any real risks to humans, or are suffering from a misinformation campaign (thank you negativity bias and media effects), I’m looking forward to finding out the real state of black-tailed deer in this one lovely part of greater Victoria.

Though maybe don’t trust those neck biting bunnies?

Update on Deer Tagging Project

Update on Deer Tagging Project

Our research team collared 4 does already in Oak Bay this week, we’re proud of how efficient our team of scientists are at getting collars on the deer within a very short time!

The does are sedated and assessed through a brief physical exam. They are then fitted with a GPS radio collar that will allow our research team to track their movements. 4 identification tags are also attached to the collar as a quick means of identifying the deer from a distance.

After the radio collar has been attached, our veterinarian administers a reversal to the sedative, and the doe is up on her feet very quickly.  The whole process from the initial sedation to waking up and being on her feet takes approximately half an hour, with no side effects.

With their new collars, a satellite tracking system allows the research team to collect important data on the ecology of urban deer.

These photos are a before and after of the first deer collared!




Next Phase of Deer Management Plan Starting

Next Phase of Deer Management Plan Starting

Good News!

The Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society will begin the next phase of an urban deer management plan to capture and GPS collar 20 does in the District of Oak Bay over the end of February and into early March, weather dependent.

The collars will allow the does to be tracked to gather information on the ecology of urban deer and to develop an understanding of their movement patterns, density and population size. The overall goal of the management plan is to gradually reduce the number of urban deer using a science-based, non-lethal approach.

The does will be sedated and assessed through a brief physical exam. After being fitted for GPS collars and ear tagged for future identification, the does will be closely monitored until the effects of the sedative wear off (approximately 5-10 minutes later). This process of sedating has a history of proven success in our province, and is used regularly by BC Fish & Wildlife.

The field work will be performed by a veterinarian experienced with sedating large wildlife, an expert wildlife researcher, and their team. It will take place at various locations around Oak Bay beginning at dawn on field dates, and a clearly marked crew will be in attendance with stop signs and cones and will be monitoring for pedestrians and traffic to ensure everyone’s safety. The Oak Bay Police and Conservation Officers have been informed of our work.

It’s great to see the fruition of the partnership between the District of Oak Bay and the Province of BC on this research project, and we’re very happy to have the full endorsement of the BC SPCA. Information on urban deer ecology has largely been missing; we believe the data and long term goals  will position Oak Bay as a North American leader in effective urban deer management that is consistent with community values around preserving the natural environment and coexisting with indigenous wildlife.

Safe Deer Interactions in the Fall

Safe Deer Interactions in the Fall


…when it’s getting dark earlier, raining often and visibility is poor. When driving it can be harder to see deer (and people) crossing the road. As well, late October and November is the “rutting season,” when bucks can move suddenly and unpredictably.


  • Scan the road ahead and from side to side
  • Be especially cautious at dawn and dusk.
  • Watch your speed and be vigilant when driving at night. A slower speed will give you more time to react.
  • If you see one deer cross the road, always assume there will be more.
  • Watch for deer coming out from between parked cars.


  • Keep your dog on a leash.
  • If you encounter a deer, pull your dog close to you, turn your dog away from the deer and prevent it from barking.
  • Reverse direction away from the deer and take another route.
  • Be watchful for deer when walking at dawn and dusk.


Bucks and does are more active at this time of the year. It’s very important to do a thorough check of your yard for deer before letting your dog out.


photo credit: midlander1231 Evening in the Forest via photopin (license)

Deer-Resistant Gardens

Deer-Resistant Gardens

Read how Oak Bay home owners turned their property into a Garry Oak meadow – “Good for the environment and the local ecosystem.”

House Beautiful: At home in a restored Garry oak meadow

A “natural” garden works well to not only help balance the ecosystem and give back to the environment. It’s a way to adapt to climate change and increasing temperatures, as native plants require far less water and are disease resistant.

When landscaping your garden, think about grasses and native plants to create a beautiful, natural landscape.

Learn more about deer-resistant gardening.