Urban deer research project successfully tags 20 does

The capture and collar phase of an innovative new approach to managing urban deer in Oak Bay wrapped up last month having hit all its targets.

Managed by the Victoria-based Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society (UWSS) and powered by a team of scientists, wildlife veterinarians, biologists, graduate students, animal behaviourists and community volunteers, the project captured, radio-collared and released 20 does within the municipality of Oak Bay Feb. 18–March 23, 2018. It’s the next step towards a UWSS program to start later this year—testing the effectiveness of contraceptives to manage urban deer populations.

The first phase of the program will provide important information on the ecology of urban deer that has not been known before now.  An understanding of movement patterns, density, and population size will be developed.

Twenty does were successfully sedated and assessed by an experienced wildlife vet and an expert wildlife biologist and their team. Sedated does were fitted with GPS collars with colour-coded tags for future identification—all weighing less than 1 lb. in total. After being fitted with their collars, a reversal drug was administered and the does were monitored until they were on their feet and stable.  Once the doe was sedated, the entire process took no more than half an hour. Five bucks were also ear tagged, but were not fitted with GPS collars.

Images of deer, collared or not, are being collected both through 1) voluntary submissions by Oak Bay residents, and 2) captured by trail cameras throughout Oak Bay that have been placed with homeowners permission. These data will be compiled and analyzed along with the GPS data, to give an accurate “picture” of urban deer population size and space use in the community.

The second phase of the project aims to gradually reduce the population of indigenous Columbian black-tailed deer in Oak Bay to sustainable levels through a science-based, non-lethal approach. A contraceptive vaccine will be administered to female deer, preventing fawn births without creating vacant territory into which other deer can move. If successful, the project will serve as an effective, community-supported template for urban deer management around North America. 

The scientific research is required prior to implementing a non-lethal deer reduction program and is funded by the District of Oak Bay and the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources and Rural Development through the Provincial Urban Deer Shared Cost Program. The work is being conducted by the UWSS, a volunteer non-profit society of biologists, animal specialists, educators, and professionals.

The UWSS would like to thank homeowners, Oak Bay Council, our team of volunteers, and the Oak Bay community for their support. Please watch for information on our upcoming Garden Tour on June 17!

To find out more, and to submit citizen science photos of the deer you see around Oak Bay, please visit uwss.ca.

Media contacts:

Steve Huxter – 250-812-6062

Kristy Kilpatrick – 250-213-8733

DSC_2821.jpg