September, 2013 – The question of re-establishing deer hunting on Mayne Island was brought to representatives of the Mayne Island Residents and Ratepayers Association and the Mayne Island Conservancy Society by the Provincial Fish and Wildlife Department who asked the Conservancy and MIRRA members to talk to the community members and seek their opinion on:
- the use of hunting as a management tool to reduce blacktail populations and help eliminate fallow deer
- to allow Mayne Island to be hunted under the general regulations instead of by special permit alone which was becoming an issue for them
The Mayne Island Conservancy and the Mayne Island Residents and Ratepayers Association agreed to undertake this task as a community service and have over three months in the summer of 2013 held three town hall meetings, presented at an Agricultural Society general meeting, attended a booth at the Farmers Market and held discussion groups on the F&W proposal and the issues of fallow deer and blacktail deer populations. Discussions centred around the effects of high deer populations, methods of reducing deer population numbers and the associated issues related to each. Participation in this process has been excellent with all town hall meetings quite full, between 50 and 70 people per meeting.
We, as community organizations, took care that we were not representing any position on this issue in order to ensure free and open debate in public meetings. We also presented as much information as was possible to allow the community to understand all aspects of this proposal. The focus of these meetings was to obtain public opinion on the provincial proposal to return hunting to Mayne Island as a means of fallow deer reduction and blacktail deer management and as there has not been hunting on Mayne for many years, the main concern was lack of understanding of what this entailed. Information was provided on regulations, lands available to hunt, local control, safety issues, possible outcomes, other options as discussed with F&W and more.
Discussions were engaged on options to hunting such as culling, poisoning, birth control, penning and tranquilizing, capturing and exporting, dog hazing, and any other suggestions that the public wished or the F&W had brought up. All of these things have been discussed at length and it is determined that they are not methods which are practical or which we as a community would be capable of or willing to undertake. The sole remaining option to study further, was hunting.
Having this option also presents challenges to our community. Some of the realities are:
- There is no Crown Land on Mayne so private landowners must give permission. It is unlikely that many would allow strangers to hunt their lands. There is not enough land which can be hunted, even with permission, to effectively accomplish the intent of the provincial proposal
- Other Islands’ experiences show that they do not get very many hunters other than local residents, so increases in hunting pressure anticipated under the provincial proposal may not materialize
- Hunting, on its own, is not likely to eliminate the fallow deer problem
- We need professional help from the Government to deal with the fallow deer issue. In conjunction with increasing the number of hunters who may work with our existing special hunters, we require the F&W people to utilize their experts to knock down the fallow populations on perhaps an annual basis. We cannot accomplish this as a community
So we have together reviewed all of the potential options, reviewed regulations and safety, applied all of these issues to our unique situation and have majority, almost unanimous agreement:
- that fallow deer should be eradicated;
- that due to land restrictions and other factors, the re-introduction of open hunting on Mayne Island is not likely to have the desired outcome of fallow deer eradication. Perhaps it would for blacktail control as this is not a cull or eradication, but numbers management. Reducing blacktail numbers however, without first addressing the Fallow deer would only provide more areas and less competition for fallow expansion; and,
- that Fish and Wildlife could be lobbied to increase special licenses to local residents and /or trusted friends of the current license holders, and provide/ implement a plan to eliminate fallow deer; and,
- that there have been almost 200 questionnaires filled out and returned and many comments in public meetings in relation to a blacktail deer hunt and this amounts to about 2/3 of those participating in this process are not opposed to a hunt. How or if this could be arranged, considering the lack of land areas in which to hunt, remains a question.
- The area of largest support considering all of the above opinions- Increase the number of special hunters hunting only fallow deer with a review of blacktail after effectively controlling fallow. New hunters should be trained by current hunters. Hunters chosen from residents and or trusted friends. Local knowledge of properties is essential. Government is responsible for the fallow deer. They should be lobbied to assist immediately in developing a strategy, additional to special hunters, with Mayne Islanders, to begin quicker reduction of numbers. Venison resource shared with First Nations.
At the September 7th, 2013 meeting the Conservancy and MIRRA representatives asked for volunteers from the community to assist in some of the work determining how to move this forward to the next phase. Two volunteered. We also informed the community members that our organizations would not present a community decision to F&W, that message should come from a group of leaders representing the whole community.
We held our final meeting on Saturday, September 21, 2013. The meeting was well attended and the audience strongly endorsed the principles outlined above. A team of well-known and respected community members volunteered to advance those principles with Fish & Wildlife and work out the details of their implementation. Although many islanders would prefer to also take steps now to reduce blacktail deer to a more sustainable and healthy population, there was general agreement to defer this action until the fallow controls are in place. Dealing with both species of deer will be a long-term process that requires multiple approaches to complement hunting. The new team members acknowledged this in their commitment, which was very appreciated by meeting attendees. The team includes Jeanine Dodds, Richard Brown, David Maude, Jim Marsh, Teresa Rittemann, and Marilyn Winterbottom. This is expected to be a permanent committee, so the membership is certain to change over time. We wish them luck and pledge them our support.
In order to provide a credible presence in approaching the Government it is essential that our representatives show clearly that they represent a strong lobby from our community and that we are united in our determination to have these issues successfully addressed.
This has been a long and difficult process for The Conservancy and MIRRA members. It has been controversial and emotional but it has also been inclusive, well participated, educational and mostly very respectful. Many community members have expressed their appreciation to us for taking this on and bringing this open forum type of discussion to the community. Our role here is now ended and we pass the results of this work over to the leaders who will be decided upon to take these results to the Government and seek a positive response to our community’s concerns. We thank the community and the Deer Committee members for their participation and we also thank Sam and Ben Mabberly from Galiano who traveled here several times in their own boat to assist us and give us the benefit of their experiences and knowledge. We thank our local hunters who have offered their knowledge and extensive experience to assist in understanding the complexity and reality of hunting on Mayne Island. Our community now has an opportunity to participate in correcting a serious and destructive problem on Mayne Island. We have an opportunity to have a say in how it is done and to work with Government to accomplish a beneficial outcome. It also gives us access to professional assistance from F&W and other Departments.