In October, 2021 the Mayne Island Conservancy Board of Directors approved a policy regarding overabundant deer on Mayne Island. See the full policy here (link); below are some of its key points.

  • The Mayne Island Conservancy has an important role to play by providing evidence-based information on the environmental impacts associated with deer overpopulation (both Black-tailed and the introduced exotic Fallow Deer) on Mayne Island.
  • The Mayne Island Conservancy has a key and continuing role to play in the protection of terrestrial ecosystems through implementing mitigation measures to exclude deer access to prime forest ecosystems and/or ecosystem restoration sites.
  • The Mayne Island Conservancy will advocate for the Province of BC to take responsibility for a sustained solution to overabundant and invasive deer impacts, honour the goals of the Coastal Douglas Fir conservation strategy and to stop the abdication of its responsibility for this issue to the community of Mayne Island.
  • The Mayne Island Conservancy, given appropriate funding, may lead or participate in initiatives to better understand the environmental impacts of hyperabundant deer browse such as vegetation surveys, deer population estimates, or impacts on other species.

A Letter to the Province Regarding Overabundant Deer

October 8, 2021

To:       

Honourable Katrine Conroy
Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development

RE: Urgent Action Requested to Stop Loss of Ecosystem Integrity and Resilience due to Overabundant Deer Populations on Mayne Island.

The Mayne Island Conservancy Board is sending this letter to you to express its concern for the significant damages to Mayne Island’s ecosystems due to overabundant deer populations and the lack of recognition of the significance of this ecological crisis. This problem has been magnified by the escape of invasive Fallow Deer from a commercial enterprise in the 1990’s, and the failure of the provincial government to take concerted action early to prevent the subsequent problems. The Conservancy feels that urgent, sustained, and meaningful action is required to solve this issue that is directly affecting, as well as compounding, the effects of other stressors at many levels by:

  • increasing impact on many sensitive habitats, plant species, and successional processes in our parks, protected areas, and unfenced forest lands;
  • threatening the viability of the rare and endangered Coastal Douglas-fir and associated ecosystems on Mayne Island;
  • adding to ecosystem stress that is also accelerating due to impacts of the climate emergency;
  • retarding the achievement of local and regional food security due to the higher costs of crop protection;
  • increasing the amount of time, effort, and costs incurred by the Conservancy to protect and restore Mayne Island terrestrial environments and thus limits the impact of available resources for habitat restoration;
  • native Blacktail Deer overpopulation, which is causing dramatic degradation to native plant communities, ecological processes, forest succession, and affecting all trophic levels through loss of structural habitat and food resources; and,
  • exotic Fallow Deer introduction in the 1990’s has compounded the environmental impacts of Blacktail Deer overpopulation by adding additional, and more intensive, browse pressure. 

In addition, the Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem is ranked as at risk both globally and provincially and as such is a high priority for protection. The multiagency, cross government Coastal Douglas Fir and Associated Ecosystems Strategy (CDFAE) has as one of its stated goals that:

Additional protection and stewardship of CDFAE is secured.

For our part, the Mayne Island Conservancy has created robust programs to contribute to the goals of the Coastal Douglas Fir and Associate Ecosystems Conservation Strategy (CDFAE) and to implement its mission to conserve Mayne Island ecosystems for future generations. In doing so, it has had to, in many cases, incur additional costs and resources to protect restored areas from excessive deer browse using fencing.  The Conservancy further recognises that there have been community efforts to raise the issue with the regional and provincial governments and these efforts have led to the implementation of special shooting permits and more recently removal of the hunting ban. However, from the perspective of protecting and sustaining an endangered ecological forest community and designing and applying recovery measures in support of the CDFAE goals, we are not seeing the kinds of improvements in the timeframe needed to attain and sustain the full range of CDF and associated ecosystems found on Mayne Island. The status quo is not working. None of the efforts to date have been based on any reasonable estimates of population size, distribution, or partition between the native and introduced exotic. As such, there are no measures of the efficacy of the efforts at a population level or geographic scale. These are crucial foundations to any future evidence-based plans to deal with the problem at the population level.

It is the opinion of the Mayne Island Conservancy Board that it is both a fiduciary and stewardship responsibility of the Provincial Government to both protect provincially designated ecosystems at risk, and to apply rigorous methods to reduce or eliminate human-caused threats to those ecosystems. It is also felt that this responsibility extends to funding and implementing sustained, evidence-based solutions to deer overpopulations.  With respect to the impacts of the exotic Fallow Deer, these could have been avoided if the Province of BC had taken timely and appropriate action at the time of introduction, and they must now take urgent action to solve what has become a vastly more complex (i.e. sightings of Fallow Deer on adjacent islands) and divisive problem.

In closing, you should be aware that the Mayne Island Conservancy currently operates a native plant nursery using local sources of seed and plant stock. The plants produced are being used for all our restoration projects on Mayne Island. As well, the Conservancy has the capacity, with appropriate funding, to undertake the necessary studies to determine deer populations and distributions as contributions to a long-term solution to this threat.

We look forward to your timely response and action on this issue.

Regards

Malcolm Inglis
President, Mayne Island Conservancy Society

c.c.       

  • Honourable John Horgan, Premier
  • Honourable George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy
  • Honourable Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries
  • 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

2 Comments

Marilyn Winterbottom · October 31, 2021 at 9:56 am

Thank you for taking initiative on behalf of the Conservancy to address this continuing and serious environmental issue. As you know, a number of people have been involved in the past (Fallow Deer Committee) with limited results. The proverbial buck gets passed and the issue goes back to square one every time there is a change in government or ministry shuffle. Excellent avoidance tactics to wear down the impetus to actually implement a plan with consistent and deliberate follow through. Many committee members have left the island or just “ retired” from action……Meanwhile the population of deer continue to grow.

Thanks again for clearly outlining the issue. Perhaps this will energize the community to work together and pressure the government to act. They have been sadly negligent for decades now.

KAREN ROBINSON · November 12, 2021 at 12:36 pm

I do hope that your efforts to communicate with the BC government don’t fall on deaf ears (yet again), because it’s obvious the problem is worsening. Doing nothing is not an option; the current policy of allowing the fallow deer to be shot with permission of property owners is not making any appreciable difference. For those of us who are working hard to be good stewards of our land and to nurture native species and a healthy ecosystem, the out-of-control deer population is a discouraging obstacle. Thank you for the renewed campaign.

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