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.
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
Since our last blog post, we successfully completed our second season of immuno-contraception (IC)! Thanks to all of you who engaged in citizen science and helped us with locating the elusive does who needed vaccinating – almost all received their booster meaning that between the fall of 2019 and the fall of 2020, 120 does were successfully vaccinated!
Thanks as well to our many supporters in the community and beyond—our field team answered many questions, and were even cheered on from balconies as they professionally, efficiently, and compassionately handled the does.
On October 31 we completed our fieldwork for this fall and our permit expired. Since then, the UWSS and Oak Bay applied to the Provincial funding program (PUDAC) for 2021 funding in order to continue collecting and analyzing data, to prepare for report writing (also to be published in peer-reviewed journals), and cover the costs of boosting both 2019 and 2020 does in the Fall of 2021.
We are happy to report that the funding was approved, and we look forward to carrying on this important research project. We know there are many communities and municipalities looking forward to accessing the extensive knowledge of urban deer that we have been collecting and seeing immuno-contraception becoming an operational solution.
If you have any questions, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We’ve been busy giving immuno-contraception (IC) to the does in Oak Bay. Each doe gets an initial dose, and then a booster a few weeks later. That means that we need to give boosers to the does treated with IC this year (which is about 60 “new” does) and to last year’s IC-treated deer. And good news, we’ve gotten nearly half of the boosters done already! But since the IC vaccination needs to be completed prior to the start of the rut, we need your help finding the does that still need their booster.