A newly formed citizen group in Victoria hopes to regulate the deer population not with a government-sanctioned cull—but with birth control. The Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society plans to ask the federal and provincial governments to reduce the deer population in the seaside community of Oak Bay via a birth control vaccine.
In Oak Bay, where the group is based, the large population of deer feasts on residents’ beautiful gardens and happily lingers in their backyards. Many view the animals as pests. “We’ve created a much better environment for them than the natural environment,” biologist Rick Page said in an interview with the Toronto Star. “A lot of the back yards in Oak Bay are secure and safe. A lot of the plants we’ve planted are like ice cream for deer.”
Page, who is a member of the group, says that using an immunocontraceptive is much more humane than killing the animals. The vaccine the group is eyeing is called, SpayVac, and it works by creating antibodies that prevents female deer from becoming pregnant. “We put ear tags in, give them a shot in the bum, and let them go,” Page explained to the CBC.
To move forward, the group needs approval from Health Canada, a lengthy process that can take up to six months. And once the group gets clearance from the government, there are costs to consider as well. The society hopes to administer the vaccine to around 25 to 50 deer. The cost of capturing, tagging and vaccinating is around $500 per deer, a hefty price tag to consider.
To cover costs, the group is trying to raise $50,000 by July so they can start vaccinating by this August. Yet despite these obstacles, the group maintains that this is the most humane way to control the deer population.
This past February, 11 deer were killed as part of the controversial Capital Regional District’s deer management pilot program. For the cull, the deer were trapped then killed using the bolt guns similar to what’s used during cattle slaughter.
“We hope to demonstrate that the [vaccine] is feasible,” says Page to the CBC, “and hope they don’t ever have to go back to a lethal cull again.”
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