Dr. Jason T. Fisher, research lead on the Oak Bay and Esquimalt deer projects was featured in the Oak Bay News for his work with Alberta’s Whitefish Lake First Nation. Read more about the great work that he and his research partners have found about declining mammal biodiversity in their traditional territories.
Post and video by Oak Bay resident and UWSS supporter, Adam Leamy
Six months ago, we noticed that one of the deer that frequents our area had suffered a serious injury to its right rear hoof. Our worry was that the injury or the distress caused by it would put the animal in peril.
We took photos and videos and shared them with UWSS. They were quick to apply their medical and species knowledge and just as quick in letting us know that while seeing the injury is unsettling, deer are quite resilient in adapting. They asked if we would let them know of further sightings or any obvious changes in the deer’s health, i.e., weight loss, etc.
And thus began our effort to keep an eye on this particular deer, and make sure that in our back yard, it always had a place to rest.
What we noticed six months ago and is still the case today is that this deer, which only has the use of three legs, is rarely alone. Number 97 is almost always by her side, literally, or catching up to graze or rest with her as she naps in the yard, often placing herself between the injured deer and the gate and the world beyond. Number 51 also seems close to the injured deer, and often it’s the three of them resting in the yard, legs tucked under, or sometimes fully stretched out.
We have a cat, Heathrow who, curiously, is quite happy to limit his outside world to the back yard. He remains curious about the visitors, but never ventures beyond the open gates, and is quite happy to rest under a fern or a bush, watching the deer, who watch him. Everyone seems to have found their safe space. It’s no bother.
Michelle and I are struck by how the deer have stayed close all these months. The injured deer is never alone for long.
The last few days, though, the injured deer has not strayed far from the yard. We were concerned that this might be a signal of a decline in health, so increased our observation. She fed regularly, either in the yard or nearby, and her coat looked fine, and she was not fixated on her injury, just grooming herself like the others do. We suspected that with the heat, and her difficulty getting about on three legs, she might just have been tired, or conserving energy.
Two nights ago, she and her friend were resting, and then the next time we looked out, they were standing and grooming themselves. I took a short video and cannot tell you how powerful the video was for its elegant gentleness. They seemed at ease, these two, secure in their location. Michelle and I remarked how nice it was to have a yard in which such peaceful, quiet, vulnerable creatures feel safe — and how much you can appreciate something by taking a few moments to stop and observe how they make their way.
Soon after I took the video, the injured deer went out the gate, and her friend followed. When they make it back this way, they’ll find the gates still open for them.
Do you enjoy viewing lovely gardens, local music, and the work of local artists? Then you should consider attending this “Art in the Garden” event on June 27, taking place from 10 am — 4 pm rain or shine.
Alina Fisher, BSc MA (Comms) PMP, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Victoria, was the most recent recipient of the Dr. Ian and Joyce McTaggart Cowan Scholarship in Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria. Alina has an extensive background in wildlife biology, ecology, and science communication, coupled with an incredible sense of compassion and empathy for wildlife, urban and otherwise.
Alina left Romania in her early childhood, and in an interview with The Nature Trust of British Columbia, she movingly describes her connection to nature and wildlife as the “constant” among much upheaval and uncertainty.
The UWSS is so fortunate to have Alina working with us. She has guided our public education and communications with a compassionate, measured, and even hand; always listening to and respecting multiple perspectives. We are excited for Alina as she pursues her Ph.D., and are grateful for her expertise. She has been instrumental in helping communities have a better understanding of the role, and need, for urban wildlife.
In recent months, Victoria and Saanich Councils have both approved applying to the provincial government for a three-year pilot project to reduce the default speed limit on their side streets (streets without centre lines) to 30 km/h from the current 50 km/h. The project will provide data to inform longer-term decisions about appropriate vehicle speeds in urban areas.
Research elsewhere has demonstrated that slower streets are safer, more livable streets for everyone—pedestrians, cyclists, children, dogs and cats, and urban wildlife, like deer, reducing both the number and severity of collisions with vehicles.
It’s a growing trend in cities around North America, including Vancouver and Toronto. According to research cited by the District of Saanich’s Engineering Department, when a vehicle is travelling at 30 km/h or less the probability of a road user surviving a collision with a motorist is nine out of 10, versus a survival rate of only two in 10 when the vehicle is travelling at 50 km/h or more.
In Toronto, a speed limit reduction on residential streets from 40 km/h to 30 km/h resulted in 28% fewer collisions, and fatalities or serious injuries dropped by 67%.
Kudos to Victoria and Saanich Councils for taking this significant step toward safety. The municipalities represent more than half the population of this region.
And now Oak Bay Council has also signed on for 30km/h speed limits on side streets!
Esquimalt, Sidney, Central Saanich and North Saanich were all ready to join a 40 km/h regional pilot last fall when Saanich proposed it but subsequently Saanich Council shifted to a lower speed target when residents asked for a more ambitious approach to safety.
Here’s hoping that those municipalities follow Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay for a 30 km/h side street speed limit in their communities, too, because slower really is safer for all of us, no matter where we live in this wonderful region
A series of thefts of vital research equipment in Oak Bay threatens the ground-breaking urban deer management project. Since early December, 13 specialized wildlife cameras out of the 39 associated with the project have been stolen from locations around the municipality. The cameras play an important role in the project that is aimed at managing the indigenous urban deer population in Oak Bay by collecting data that attests, over time, to the density, movement patterns, population size and habits of Oak Bay deer.
The three-year initiative, a partnership between the District of Oak Bay and the Greater Victoria-based Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society (UWSS), is using an immunocontraceptive (IC) to trial the humane and effective reduction of the municipality’s indigenous Columbian black-tailed deer population. It is funded by Oak Bay and the Province of BC’s Provincial Urban Deer Cost-Share Program. The project is currently at the halfway mark.
The immunocontraception approach reduces the number of fawn births each year in a way that does not open up territory for new deer to move in and replace them the way population culls do. If successful, the project will make available a new community-based approach to urban deer management to communities throughout North America. The project is endorsed by the BC SPCA.
Preliminary results indicate that the application of IC to 60 does in the Fall of 2019 has significantly reduced the deer birth rate in Oak Bay in its first year. Data from the cameras is critical to proving, up to scientific research standards, the success of the project.
The 13 cameras, Bushnell Model 119876C [See photo below], are owned jointly by Oak Bay and the UWSS. The 13, stolen mainly from public property, are valued at a total of approximately $4,000. Nine were stolen in the first half of December and another four since then. The scale, breadth and timing of the thefts, along with the specific locations chosen, suggests a targeted campaign rather than a series of random acts.
Oak Bay Police are investigating. Residents who have observed individuals removing tree-mounted cameras from property or associated activity from early December to present, particularly on public property, or who may have security camera footage, are asked to contact OBPD at (250) 592-2424. Anyone who has come across the sale or donation of Bushnell wildlife cameras since December or in the future should also contact Oak Bay Police.
About the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society (UWSS):
Chief scientist for the project is Dr. Jason Fisher, one of Canada’s leading wildlife ecologists. The project manager is Sandra Frey, MSc, an expert in evaluating the impacts of human-wildlife interactions. Project veterinarian is Dr. Adam Hering.
The UWSS is a non-profit society with the long-term goal of conflict reduction between humans and free-living urban animals through science-based and humane population management through research and education.
Kristy Kilpatrick, President, UWSS, 250-213-8733
By Lynette Browne, DVM
Do you want to know about Lyme disease and the risk of getting this disease from ticks? For many of us that migrate here from Eastern Canada, we hear a lot more about Lyme disease as it is much more prevalent there, and actually on the increase. However, here in B.C., the rate of Lyme disease in humans remains consistently very low at less than 1% in adults (<0.5/100,000 population).
The ticks that transmit Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, fall into two main categories, Ixodes pacificus (Western Black-Legged Tick) on the West Coast of North America, and Ixodes scapularis (Black-Legged Tick) in the Northeastern U.S.A. and Canada. Unlike in Eastern Canada, the rate of Lyme disease remains low in B.C. for several main reasons:
- The prevalence of B. burgdorferi in ticks in B.C. has remained consistently low over time, with less than 1% of ticks tested carrying the bacteria. This is different than the Eastern portion of N. America where Lyme disease rates in both ticks and humans have increased over time along with climate change.
- The Western Black-Legged Tick are less capable of carrying B. burdorferi than the Black-Legged Tick in Eastern Canada and the U.S.A.
- The animals on which Ixodes ticks feed are different. In B.C., the ticks primarily feed on small rodents such as deer mice and dusky-footed woodrat. In Eastern Canada and the U.S.A., the ticks feed on white-footed mice and white-tailed deer.
- The vegetation and climate are different between B.C. and Eastern Canada (e.g. B.C. has mostly coniferous forests, whereas Eastern North Amercia has mostly leafy forests).
- Despite Ixodes ticks being present throughout southern and central B.C., including in most of the highly-populated areas, an expansion of the range of these ticks, which could occur with climate change, would not greatly increase the number of people exposed in B.C. since the expansion of the range would be to less-populated areas.
To sum it up, the risk of Lyme disease in B.C. is lower and more stable than it is in Eastern Canada and in the Northeastern U.S.A.
That said, it is always important to protect yourself from being bitten by ticks, especially while out hiking. Check out the BCCDC website for more information.
Out of concern for Lyme disease, some people have asked about the number of ticks seen on deer through the course of our research project. During the UWSS’s deer contraception project, there were very rare instances of ticks seen on the deer that were handled. In fact, none were seen during the latest Fall of 2020 portion of the project. So, though deer management is on the mind of many people in Greater Victoria, at least the risk of Lyme disease does not need to be part of the concern.
As 2021 has begun, we’re wishing everyone a safe and healthy start to the New Year!
With the darker, wetter days and nights, you may feel that you’re seeing fewer deer…the official term for that appears to be “hunkering down”! Like us, deer tend to look for warm, dry shelter where their needs can be met, and as a result they seem to be less visible.
Watch for deer crossing
We’re glad to note that some actually are a bit safer when crossing the road – 60 does that received their IC in the Fall all have reflective tape on their identification ear tags, and we’ve heard that they are quite visible in headlights.
Theft of wildlife cameras
Sadly, in the first couple of weeks of December, nine of the wildlife cameras collecting data on urban deer in Oak Bay were stolen. The cameras were all on public land with permission from Oak Bay and are the property of Oak Bay and the UWSS. If you saw someone removing a camera from its location (likely a tree), please report to the Oak Bay Police (250-592-2424).
Injured buck recovering
You may have seen a recent photo in the newspaper of a majestic buck with an arrow in its side, just behind its right foreleg. The suffering buck had been shot, likely in Oak Bay, with a crossbow, clearly with the intent to kill.
Thankfully, a number of people reported the injured deer to the Conservation Service, and with the help of UWSS past president Bryan Gates and our wildlife veterinarian Dr. Adam Hering, they were able to locate the buck and successfully remove the arrow. The arrow just missed the buck’s heart but when last seen appeared to be doing quite well.
It is illegal to hunt within urban boundaries. As well, urban deer eat many plants that have pesticides on them and the meat is unfit to eat. As well, does that have been given immuno-contraception have a small, yellow provincial tag in one ear that identifies them as unfit for meat. If you see anyone attempting to hunt within urban boundaries, or you see an injured deer, please call the Conservation RAPP line at 1-877-952-7277 or #7277 on Telus mobility.
The native deer species here in greater Victoria is the Columbian black-tailed deer. But our lead scientist Jason Fisher and colleague Cole Burton have a new paper in the journal Ecology and Evolution on white-tailed deer in north-eastern Alberta.
They found that oil and gas features play a key role in sustaining the expansion of white-tailed deer northward into boreal landscapes. The infographic, right, explains the key findings of the paper.
Original research paper: Spatial structure of reproductive success infers mechanisms of white-tailed deer invasion of boreal landscapes. http://buff.ly/2KEMMJT