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