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.
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.
Along with warmer, brighter days and burgeoning vegetation growth, deer fawning season is beginning, with the first fawns already sighted in Oak Bay and other municipalities.
During September and October 2019 an immuno-contraceptive was administered to 60 does, all of whom are marked with numbered or coloured ear tags. In addition, a control group of 20 does who did not receive the immuno-contraceptive are marked with a coloured collar and large pink tags attached to the collar.
We are expecting that only the control group of does and any other does that did not receive the immuno-contraceptive will give birth. So this season we are anticipating a reduction in births by 60-90 fawns.
Does are very protective of their fawns and if threatened will defend their youngsters. A human waving their arms and yelling at a doe, and merely the presence of dogs (whether leashed or unleashed, seems threatening to their fawns safety – even if you can’t see the fawns nearby. So in the interests of avoiding interactions with protective does we recommend the following behaviours when walking your dog or strolling the neighbourhood streets:
Avoid eye contact – this can be seen as challenging behaviour.
Remain quiet – waving your arms and yelling is threatening to the doe, causing the mother to feel even more protective of her fawn
Cross the street – rather than confronting the deer, cross the road to avoid contact
Change your route – if a deer appears to be following you, try changing direction. You may unknowingly be walking toward a hidden fawn.
Keep your dog near you – dogs are natural threats to deer, regardless of their size, age, or demeanour. Not only is it important to keep your dog leashed when out walking where deer are in the neighbourhood, but when you see a deer, keep your dog near you as you walk. Never release the leash to let the dog chase the deer away.
If you find a fawn, leave it alone – does shelter fawns from predators, leaving for long periods to forage, then returning for fawns to suckle. Because fawns are born without scent, for the first few weeks does may feed and sleep a considerable distance from the fawn to reduce the chance of attracting predators. BC SPCA’s WildARC receives numerous calls from people who have found an “orphaned” fawn, but typically advise residents to leave it alone – the mother is likely nearby and will return once you leave. However, if the fawn is dirty, smelly and has flies around it, or is bleeding and obviously injured, or is shivering, thin, disoriented, and bleating call WildArc as soon as you can. In addition, if a doe does not return to a seemingly healthy fawn for more than eight hours call WildArc as something may have happened to the doe. If you do find a fawn in distress do not attempt to move it, unless it is on a road or in an otherwise unsafe place. If you inadvertently handled the animal, rub an old towel on the grass, then gently wipe the fawn down with it to remove human scent.
When driving – especially at dawn and dusk, reduce your chance of hitting a deer by slowing down and scanning both sides of the road. Stay alert and focused and remember that deer are rarely alone – when one crosses the road others will usually follow. Headlights blind and confuse deer and cause them to freeze or act unpredictably. Young inexperienced deer may not recognize vehicles as a threat. Deer do not understand what honking your horn means and may be startled into running into the road.
For more tips on living with Urban Deer visit UWSS.ca
BCSPCA WildArc. 855 622 7722. 1020 Malloch rd. Victoria
If you saw the now familiar orange safety vests and a man
carrying what looks like a rifle (he’s a wildlife veterinarian and it’s a dart
projector!) you’ll know that our field team was once again out in the field
The purpose of the fieldwork was two-fold. One was to check the fit of the collars
placed on 40 does in the Fall of 2019. The
second purpose of being in the field this winter/spring was to re-mark a
Because we were out in the field again to capture a control
group, we used the opportunity to double-check on collar fit. There were some concerns voiced from the
community that the collars used to identify does that have received
immuno-contraception are too tight, and we have been following those concerns
up diligently. We checked on many of the
does that were specifically reported to us since September with concerns of a
too tight collar, and Dr. Hering, our wildlife veterinarian, was able to report
that in fact the collars are fitting well. Nine does were re-captured, their
necks re-measured to look for growth and that the collars are not causing any
problems. None of the collars that were checked are fitting too tightly or
appear to be causing the animals any problems and so it was not necessary to
replace or remove any collars because of inappropriate fit. The fit is very
similar to that of a dog collar on a dog, which is what he was aiming for. However the collars can appear to fit tighter
than they actually are, due to winter fur growth.
Although from a distance it can look as though a collar is
too tight, when you’re up close it is much easier to tell how much room there
actually is under the collar. Dr. Hering
has been really pleased with how the deer’s necks look with the identification
collars, there is far less chafing than with the much looser GPS collars used
on the original control group!
Our original control group of 20 (down to 17 due to mortalities)
were wearing GPS collars (those loose ones with the big bling!) that were timed
to automatically drop off this February and March. Due to an unexpected provincial requirement
that delayed immuno-contraception by a year, we need a control group for at
least another year. So, as the original
collars “blow” off, we re-captured some of the same animals (and in some cases
new animals), for 18 does in total, and fit them with new colourful marker collars. These collars are even more light weight than
the originals, have only 2 smaller tags, and were provided to us by Margo
a family-owned and operated company with over 35 years of safe, effective,
non-lethal wildlife management solutions.
We have loved the privilege of working with Margo Supplies.
If you see an animal with pink tags on her collar you will
know that she is a control animal and was not given contraception this
Impact of COVID-19
Although we had hoped to re-mark 20 does and do a few more
collar checks (we’ve also been taking a blood sample to help determine
pregnancy rates, results not in), due to COVID-19 and the health guidelines for
physical distancing, we have wrapped up field work until September 2020 when we
will head out again to booster the does that received IC in the Fall of 2019,
and give a primary vaccine to up to 60 new does.
In the meantime, we hope you and your families and friends keep
healthy and safe.
Yes, the UWSS may be currently focused on urban deer, but we are the Urban Wildlife stewardship society and care about all creatures.
This philosophy is personified by our very own lead scientist Dr. Jason Fisher, who was featured in a recent Oak Bay News article on the importance of wildlife corridors that connect protected areas. Jason supervised the research of UVic PhD graduate Frances Stewart as she tracked 10 fishers using biologging technology.
Sound familiar? While the study was based in the Beaver Hills biosphere of Alberta, the fishers apparently share some travelling habits of Oak Bay’s indigenous deer.But the corridors for deer are often busy roads and crossing from one area to another can be treacherous.
Fortunately, if people are driving the speed limit (or slower, in the areas where they expect deer) and scanning ahead, the chances of an accident are greatly reduced. From fishers to deer, let’s keep our wildlife safe!