To follow up on previous posts in the Oystercatcher, in the fall of 2021 the Conservancy began to more actively advocate with the provincial government to live up to its responsibility to deal with the hyperabundant populations of introduced Fallow deer and the native Blacktail deer. The large numbers of both species are devastating our local environment and harming many other plant, bird, animal and pollinator species, with the Fallow deer being especially destructive. It’s not just about protecting flower gardens! The first step in this advocacy was to write to relevant provincial ministries and appeal for serious action.
Our last post in this newsletter was the response we received in January from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources. Since then, we have followed up with another letter to indicate our disappointment to their very non-committal response. That letter is published along with this report.
Back-and-forth letter writing may seem like a pointless exercise, but it’s an important signal to the government that we’re not going away. You can help us by voicing your own support to the addressees on this last letter – the squeaky wheel gets the grease, so let’s squeak as loudly as we can together. We are grateful for the support we have received from our local Island Trustees and our MLA who recognize the seriousness of the problem and are willing to take a nonpartisan stand. Our MLA Adam Olsen is now pursuing an indigenous approach with the province, and we hope to have more to say about that in a future Oystercatcher.
Meanwhile, we have submitted Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to the province concerning the defunct Fallow deer farm on Mayne Island and expect to see some results later in June. We will be seeking advice from scientific experts on the effects of hyperabundant deer and control methods, and starting to work on public education and media strategy.
As I said, we’re not going away on this issue. It’s too serious to let go.
Second Letter to the Province re: Overabundant Deer
The following letter responds to the government’s email and includes a request for a meeting among other actions.
February 28, 2022
Honourable Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development
Honourable Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries
Honourable Josie Osborne, Minister of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship
RE: Follow-up to Concerns Regarding Overabundant Fallow Deer Populations on Mayne Island.
We are writing to Minister Katrine Conroy, in response to the email of December 6, 2021 received from Sharon Hadway, Regional Executive Director for the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD). We have also included Minister Lana Popham in this response, recognizing that the problem originated from the fallow deer farm permitted on Mayne Island under her Ministry in the 1980s, as well as Minister Josie Osborne, responsible for the newly formed Ministry of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship.
The Mayne Island Conservancy Society continues to emphasize the need for stronger action than is currently being undertaken by the Province.
We acknowledge the actions taken by FLNRORD thus far:
- The issuance of special permits allowing a small number of permit holders to hunt fallow deer using rifles, which has been the most effective action to date in terms of recorded population control;
- The introduction of a General Open Season for fallow deer in 2018 with no closed season and no bag limit;
- The financial support of the Capital Regional District’s collaboration with local First Nations to cull fallow deer on Mayne;
- The opening of a regular hunting season for blacktail deer on Mayne.
However, the Ministry should understand that these measures do not come close to having a significant impact on the local fallow deer population. The environmental devastation being caused by fallow deer on Mayne must be abundantly clear to FLNRORD staff by now, so it is disappointing to learn that the Ministry is still seeking funding to properly address the problem. This lack of funding is particularly troubling in that it conveys a complete lack of urgency for the issue.
Compounding this lack of urgency is the proposal to review the hunting regulations for Mayne Island, with a deadline for comments of January 23, 2022.
- There was no significant consultation with islanders and, to the best of our knowledge, no effort to inform islanders of the proposal.
- The proposal offers three options: one is to maintain the status quo, and two actually reduce hunting options. This risks exacerbating our deer problem.
- By issuing a hunting change proposal instead of taking a leadership role to address a clearly significant environmental, agricultural, and economic threat, the Province reduces the problem to a hunting safety issue and by putting the decision in the hands of islanders, turns it into what will inevitably become a divisive and bitter local debate about the safety of hunting.
- While Ms. Hadway’s response describes measures, though limited, to control fallow deer, we must emphasize that in an unbalanced ecology where large predators have been removed, the native blacktail deer are also overabundant and there needs to be a holistic solution to the problem.
- As we pointed out in our original letter, fallow deer have been sighted on other islands. It is inevitable, that unchecked, the population will continue to grow in numbers and geographic spread and become a vastly more complex environmental and agricultural problem. As a result, it will no longer be a Mayne Island problem but a regional one. To prevent this scenario, the Province should take a comprehensive interdepartmental approach to dealing with it. The limiting of action so far to just hunting considerations distorts and masks the seriousness and breadth of the issue.
In closing, we strongly urge that FLNRORD cancel the proposed hunting regulations changes for which no proper consultation took place, and which did not take into account the potential impact on the environment; reinstate and strengthen the special hunting permit program; and that Policy-level staff from both Ministries to whom this letter is addressed meet with the Conservancy to work toward a longer-term solution to the problem. We are happy to come to your offices but suggest that even better would be to meet on Mayne Island to see the environmental destruction that is occurring.
The Mayne Island Conservancy has the local credibility and expertise to advise on an effective deer management plan. At FLNRORD’s invitation, in 2013, the Conservancy co-moderated an extensive consultation with islanders to gauge their position on the overabundance of deer. An overwhelming majority wanted the fallow deer eradicated and then the blacktail deer numbers reduced to numbers that the environment could sustain.
We look forward to your timely action on this issue.
President, Mayne Island Conservancy Society
Honourable John Horgan, Premier
Honourable George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy
Adam Olsen, MLA, Saanich North and the Islands
Peter Luckham, Chair, Islands Trust Council
Jeanine Dodds, Trustee for Mayne Island
David Maude, Trustee for Mayne Island
David Howe, Director, Southern Gulf Island Electoral Area