Love is in the Air: Hormones drive bachelor bucks to distraction

Love is in the Air: Hormones drive bachelor bucks to distraction

Buck behaviour during rutting season can seem unusual, but they’re really just single-minded as they follow the scent toward a doe. Jen Blyth / Black Press Media photo

(article and photo reproduced with permission)

You’re likely accustomed to seeing does strolling the neighbourhood with their offspring in tow, but it’s the bachelor bucks who come into focus this time of year.

And in focus for the bucks – or at least the focal point of their attentions – is their female counterpart.

Yes, along with cooler temperatures and falling leaves, November brings the free-flowing hormones of rutting season.

You may have already seen the viral video of a pair of Oak Bay bucks squaring off in a burst of bravado, going antler to antler in a bid to win the (ahem) heart of local does.

But rest assured, while dramatic, the deer really only have eyes – and sniffers – for each other.

So, what does this mean for us as we go about our less amorous business?

Here are a few timely reminders:

  • Distracted by love – Buck behaviour during rutting season can seem unusual, but they’re really just single-minded as they follow the scent toward a doe. That DOES mean they can run out into the road, without noticing an approaching bike or vehicle. It’s important for drivers, cyclists and others to pay extra attention, especially around dawn and dusk, when deer tend to be more active.
  • 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 it’s 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.
  • When walking, keep your distance – While bucks are only interested in other deer, it’s best to keep your distance as you would with any wildlife.Because a deer’s natural response to danger is to run, always leave it an escape route away from yourself.
  • When with dogs, keep them close and calm – No matter their size, dogs are perceived by deer as a potential threat. Always check your yard carefully for deer before letting your dog out. When walking, keep dogs on a leash and if you encounter a deer, keep your dog pulled in close to you, stop it barking if possible, and walk away from the deer.

Visit for more information about avoiding collisions with deer and other deer behaviour tips. Learn more about the Township of Esquimalt’s deer management efforts here.

Farewell to long-time supporter Marion Cumming

Farewell to long-time supporter Marion Cumming

It is with sadness that we acknowledge the passing of Marion Cumming.  Marion was one of the founding members of the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society, creating our logo, providing us with artwork that many of you have seen on our cards, and always encouraging and supporting our research and work. Marion had an extraordinary connection to all urban wildlife, she welcomed deer and all animals onto her very special property that she has now donated to the Victoria Native Friendship Centre.

 We will greatly miss Marion’s gentle, optimistic, and eternally cheerful support.

Keep your eyes peeled!

Keep your eyes peeled!

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

The partnership continues!

The partnership continues!

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

The results are in once more!

The results are in once more!

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.

For more information, please go to our research page:

We’ll keep you updated!

2021 Oaky Bay results
Did the COVID-19 lockdowns impact wildlife?

Did the COVID-19 lockdowns impact wildlife?

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.”

Read more about the documentary at or watch it on the CBC site, left. 

Declining mammal diversity: news from our research team lead

Declining mammal diversity: news from our research team lead

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.

With a little help from my friends

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.