Rick Page – “Urban deer: they’re here to stay”

Rick Page – “Urban deer: they’re here to stay”
by Andrew Bryant, 20 October 2016.

Having previously worked on geese in Ontario, caribou in Spatzisi, and the moose and wolves of Isle Royale, Dr. Rick Page recently visited to share his considerable knowledge and experience of “urban deer“.

Deer are are beautiful and impressive creatures, but bring problems to the urban landscape.  Without natural predators such as cougars and wolves, deer populations can grow quickly.   The average lifespan of a “wild” deer is about 4 years, but without predation it can rise to >10 years.   Because females typically breed every year, the result is predictable: a lot more deer.

Deer overpopulation increases traffic accidents, damage to crops and gardens, aggression to pets and humans, and the potential for transmission of things like Lyme disease (via deer ticks).  It also leads to unhealthy deer populations.

As with any ecological problem, there’s no quick “one-size fits-all” solution to the urban deer issue. In BC, jurisdictions such as Oak Bay or Cranbrook have employed a variety of “conflict reduction” or “population reduction” methods, including fences, chemical repellents, roadside signage, lethal culls, translocation, or surgical or chemical sterilization practices.  These can be both costly – and controversial.

Urban deer are here to stay.  Fences, careful choice of garden plantings, and landscape-level planning can help, but they’re not going to make the problem go away.

Any successful deer management program requires stable, long-term funding and scientific evaluation – but to date, as Rick underscored with wit and humor, we’ve not been particularly good at providing much of either.