PenderBlog From The Pender Islands Of Canada

January 7, 2011

Deer population management forum

Filed under: Nature watch — Jocko @ 7:33 pm


From the Islands Trust:

Deer Control

The Regional Conservation Plan identifies black-tailed deer as one of the most significant threats to biodiversity on the islands. Deer populations on South Pender (as on every other southern Gulf Island) are out of control. In addition to creating a significant traffic hazard, deer populations that thrive in the absence of natural predators threaten the survival of other native species that are ecologically important even if they lack the apparent virtue of being cute and cuddly. The Islands Trust is a partner in the UN International Year of Biodiversity (South Pender Trustee Greer submitted the partnership application on behalf of the Trust), and one of the most important steps in conserving biodiversity on our islands is to find a way to keep deer populations in check. A forum on options for deer control will be held at the Mayne Island Agricultural Hall on January 14 from 1 to 4 pm. For further information, please contact Dave Maude by email at (end)


Pender Island residents who are concerned about the over abundance of black-tailed deer on the Pender Islands may wish to attend this forum.

For more information about proposed deer culling on Vancouver Island go here:  Heather Reid: Stories from an Island – A question of culling


  1. Thank you Sara for your input as follows:

    January 7, 2010

    Re the Columbian Black-tailed Deer in the Gulf Islands with plans to have a forum on their control – Another Perspective

    As apparently stated, the Regional Conservation Plan identified the blacked-tailed deer as one of the most significant threats to biodiversity on the islands. And, I agree, that in some areas they do seem to over-forage the flora. And, yes, natural predators have been eliminated.

    I realize that the Islands Trust hosts the greatest care for the wildlife & ecosystems for overall biodiversity, more than any other government in Canada. But I get a little annoyed with the term ‘management (human control) of the environment (or species within)’ whenever I look at the condition of the planet, North America, Canada, British Columbia or the “Islands” – management skills of the human species when it comes to wildlife & biodiversity has been dismal to say the least! So please excuse me when I get a little hot under the collar when such a subject is brought to the forefront. So bear with me as I try to put a bit of perspective on the table of just who is to blame for the downward slide of biodiversity on the islands.

    How did this evolve over the years we have to ask ourselves?

    I have a Thesis written by a Dr. McNay in 1995 after years of research into the Columbian Black-tailed Deer on Vancouver Island. This was commissioned by the Ministry of Forest of the day after finding that the species was seriously declining in areas of clear-cut logging. Conclusions found that –

    – Columbian Black-tailed deer are a native species to Vancouver Island & the gulf islands..

    – deer populations require low elevation old-growth forests in winter, young forests for summer forage;

    – young deer rarely disperse to new ranges,; host restricted deer habitat choices;

    – strong family bonds influence movement decision;

    – deer populations will decrease as open and young forest age;

    – Natural forage: Douglas-fir, Grand Fir, Western Red Cedar, deciduous trees, salal, ferns, huckleberry; Arbutus.

    As evident, I am usually on the side of the native flora & fauna and while biodiversity harm may come when a species over populates its habitat we have to look at the whole picture of ‘why this took place’ and 99.9% of the time the root of the cause is the human species.

    Yes the predators are missing from the islands – we killed the last wolf, I understand, at Fawn Creek many decades ago but we still have the predator known as ‘hunters’ along with those who choose to use the deer for target practice for archery.

    But there are other main causes of human interference re the suspected over-population of deer on our islands and they are:

    1) Feeding the deer – this is against the wildlife act; provides the deer with unhealthy forage & do not supply the right enzymes in their digestive systems to digest their natural forage; causing over births; upsets the balance of nature. Species populations are regulated by what the habitat can sustain.

    2) Excessive ‘deer’ fencing! Thus reduction in habitat. At one time the deer had free range over the entire islands. Speaking to old timers & historians, there is no evidence that the pioneers ever bothered to fence their gardens as human population was low & the deer retained a fear of the human species, but times have changed with continuing growth in human activities & numbers. Fifteen years ago (through the Conservancy) we tried to educate the islanders (especially in higher populated areas) to reduce their deer fencing by leaving corridors – setback fencing by one metre from all property boundaries thus providing a two metre corridor between properties. We asked that these corridors retain native vegetation for deer foraging as well;

    3) Remove Himalayan Blackberries (invasive species & broom) to enhance native deer forage; and

    4) Leave a minimum of 15% of their property in native flora and open for natural deer habitat as well as use by other species such as songbirds & woodpeckers.

    5) Do not befriend the deer – leave them wild.

    6) And, of course, there is ‘climate change’ of which the human species hosts responsibility as well, thus, on the average, warmer winters, longer growing seasons for forage & are less likely to succumb to the cold winter months.

    But, alas, the general reaction from the Pender Islands population was a negative – private property rights it is called.

    Over the many decades it has never ceased to amaze me that every time a native species, out of desperation, learns to live with the human species it then becomes a nuisance (Canada Geese; Raccoons; Mink; Bears and the list goes on and lengthens with each passing year). And now the Columbian Black-tailed Deer have joined the list, as well as other deer species. I’m sadly waiting to hear the “big C word’ (cull) in Calgary, Victoria, Okanagan cities and, yes, I have already heard it on the Penders. But remember there is only one species that keeps over-populating the islands (or the world) that causes all the pain for the wildlife.

    Oh, and by the way, there are many traffic hazards on our roads – birds (beware – I brake for birds!), dogs, domesticated ducks (mallards too in the spring), cattle from time to time, cyclists, pedestrians and right across from the clinic, heaven forbid, ‘children’!! J And, I am sad to report that I have seen terrified deer try to get off the roads but are contained by deer fencing right up to edge of the blacktop.

    “All the deer wish is a place to be – they are the innocent”. Remember, we, the human species, have done far more (& continue to do so) to threaten and destroy biodiversity than any other species on the face of the earth.

    We have to do our part – the solutions rest with our actions first before the Columbian Black-tailed deer have to pay the ultimate price for our behaviour & greed.

    Thanks for listening


    Sara J. Steil
    6604 Harbour Hill Road,
    Pender Island, B.C. V0N 2M1

    Comment by Jocko — January 8, 2011 @ 1:27 am

  2. Jocko,

    Thanks for posting this. I agree with many of Sara`s points — humans have difficulty living with animals and keeping our interactions with them appropriate (ie. staying away and not feeding them!)

    But the fact of the matter is that the situation has now reached a critical stage, and there are simply too many deer on this island. Many are visibly unhealthy, with problems such as an hoof overgrowth that impedes their ability to walk.

    Sydney Island has culled deer, under government supervision, for many years. The meat is sold and the pelts used.

    Decisions around difficult issues like this will always be controversial, but I am glad a round of dialogue to deal with the problem has been started.

    Kind Regards,
    Theresa Carle-Sanders
    Pender Island

    Comment by Island Vittles — January 8, 2011 @ 1:11 pm

  3. I must admit I may be influenced by several disaster and
    post-apocalypse films I’ve seen lately, but what if there is in fact a regional calamity and food supply is cut off? We’ll be thrilled to have the over abundance of venison! In one film people resorted to eating each other! It was almost as bad as the public forums on the Driftwood housing project a few years back. Just sayin’…
    To improve the ecosystem on Pender make people keep their cats inside! At least deer don’t eat ground nesting birds.

    Comment by Richard Fox — January 8, 2011 @ 3:42 pm

  4. A recent report in the Globe and Mail about the effects of deer on the Gulf Islands overgrazing the understory plants and the possibility of native plant extinctions and song bird populations plunging:

    Comment by Jocko — January 18, 2011 @ 4:09 pm

  5. I enjoy seeing all the deer on Pender, and even on our tiny 1/3 acre lot there are always deer present. They complacently ignored us even when using a chainsaw to clear our building site. We had some friends from Vancouver visit who went on and on about the deer, and how lucky we were to have a place with so many tame deer on the property. What genuinely worries me about the high deer population on Pender is not only the apparent association with a decline in the number of songbirds, but also the fact that all over Pender there seem to be few if any arbutus seedlings. I have not noticed any young arbutus growing in what should be ideal rocky, dry conditions for arbutus. On Vancouver Island and some other gulf islands there are still plenty of young arbutus seedlings; however, even there they take a beating from the deer. Somehow a few always survive to regenerate the arbutus forests, but I am worried that on Pender there are no young arbutus. A lot of the older arbutus do not look very healthy and many have hollow trunks. It would be a real tragedy if some day in the future Canada\’s only native broadleaf evergreen tree disappears from the gulf islands because of too many starving and thirsty deer. I also don\’t see how anyone could grow a vegetable garden on Pender without the use of deer fencing, and I have noticed that even \”deer-resistant plants\” that are never touched by deer on Vancouver Island are chewed to the ground on Pender.

    Comment by Ted Atkins — January 26, 2011 @ 8:55 pm

  6. This afternoon my partner had the very unfortunate experience of having a large deer jump suddenly in front of our car on the stretch up from the Medicine Beach market towards the firehall. Luckily he wasn’t hurt, but alas the deer was a goner after bouncing off our hood. The car could be a write off. ICBC will decide, but we hope it can be repaired.
    Please beware of spooked and unpredictable bounding deer while driving on Pender… collisions can cause severe damage to your vehicle, or even worse, personal injury. Swerving to avoid a collision may be the best thing to do if there is enough time, but it can also be very dangerous if you swerve, lose control and hit an oncoming vehicle or a tree. Better sometimes to just brake hard (if you have time) and hope for the best. If you swerve and go into the ditch, be warned that the cops have heard this excuse for alcohol related mishaps many times and will likely demand a breathalyzer test and proof that there was a deer!

    And one last point, you might want to watch your speed. The speed limit on Pender is 50 kph. Hitting a deer at this speed can be very serious. Hitting a deer at higher speeds could be fatal.

    Comment by Jocko — February 12, 2011 @ 2:31 am

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