Starting this Monday, you’ll be seeing our team out in Oak Bay doing collar checks. We want to make sure that as some of the deer have grown, their collars aren’t too tight. We’ll be making sure that collars fit snugly enough that there is room for two or three fingers under the collars (as seen to the left), but not loose enough that they could snag on bushes.
So if you see our team out and about in our high visibility vests, please feel free to let us know if you’ve seen any deer that we should try to check. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are happy to confirm that another year of provincial and municipal funding has been approved for this multi-year research project on urban deer and the impact of immuno-contraception (IC) as a deer population management tool. The Provincial Urban Deer Cost Share Project (PUDAC) has accepted the 2022 application prepared by the UWSS on behalf of Oak Bay.
In 2022 the data collection and analysis will continue, allowing our scientists to determine the impact of the decrease in fawn abundance on the adult deer population, as fewer fawns will be maturing into adulthood. You will also see our field team out and about in their flashy orange vests, in early to mid-April, checking on collar fits and anything else that may need our attention. We’ve really appreciated community eyes on Oak Bay’s deer, letting us know if a collar appears too tight, or if one of the tagged deer has an injury. Whenever possible, we really appreciate photographs (taken safely) and locations, which can be sent to email@example.com
Expanding on the 2019 findings of where deer can be found in Oak Bay, we have been able to identify that deer hone in on areas with lush green vegetation and large-sized residential lots (as well as parks, green spaces, and golf courses). Results of our research to date indicate that the conversion of the historic drought-resistant Garry oak ecosystems into the lush, landscaped urban environment of Oak Bay is likely supporting an urban Columbian black-tailed deer population more than the native Garry oak ecosystem would.
Additionally, after just one year of immunocontraception (IC: in the fall of 2019), the relative abundance of fawns decreased by nearly 60% in 2020. The adult deer population has stayed largely constant over the first year of IC (approx. 100 deer in all of Oak Bay), but the decrease in the abundance of fawns should result in a decrease in adult deer as fewer fawns will be maturing into adulthood.
The COVID-19 lockdown impacted nature in many different ways, including giving us the opportunity to watch wildlife in our backyards. Our lead scientist on the Oak Bay and Esquimalt deer projects, Jason T. Fisher, and his lab also had the opportunity to see how wildlife in Alberta responded during this time. Featured in the Nature of Things documentary, Nature’s Big Year, Jason retrieved astonishing lockdown images from wildlife camera traps in Alberta’s Bighorn Backcountry. “We were stunned to find out what wolves were doing during lockdown. They’re the apex predators, so their behaviour has a ripple effect on the entire food chain.”
Dr. Jason T. Fisher featured in the Oak Bay News, Sept 9, 2021. page 11
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.
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.
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.
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