Oak Bay BC

Uplands Park vista

A Walk in the Park

One of the final days of summer 2018 was perfect for a walk in Uplands Park with The Dog (otherwise known as Nelly the Newfoundland).

Nelly the Newfoundland in Uplands Park

Nelly wondering why I’m falling behind

 

This park is surrounded by suburbia, but it’s big enough that you can imagine yourself miles from a house or paved street. Technically, it’s an example of southern Vancouver Island’s vanishing Garry Oak meadow ecosystem, but in reality it’s probably way different from 150 years or more ago. In past times, the native peoples of the area cleared out brush by doing regular burns. This preserved the open meadows where camas bulbs (an important food source) were harvested. Now, with zillion dollar homes close by, there is great resistance to any suggestion of burning, no matter how controlled.

Setting all that aside, here are a few close-ups of plants and rocks that caught my eye as we walked to the shore at nearby Cattle Point. Despite its overgrown state, this is a special place. In spring, a multitude of wildflowers blooms, but I appreciate the rich and muted shades of late summer.

 

Nootka rose Rosa nutkana fall foliage near boat launch ramp Cattle Point

Foliage of the native Nootka Rose (Rosa nutkana)

 

Eroded volcanic bedrock with lichen, Cattle Point

Eroded volcanic rock with yellow lichens at Cattle Point

 

Beach grass at Cattle Point

Beach grass, rocks, and water at Cattle Point

 

Boulder with lichen near Cattle Point

Boulder with lichens in withered grass

 

 

 

 

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Oak Bay Votes to Kill

Well, the council of the superlative suburb I call home — Oak Bay, British Columbia — just voted to spend $12,500 (Cdn) to “cull” 25 deer in a pilot project between now and 2015. This means trapping the animals in Clover traps and killing them with bolt-guns to the head.

I think this is a crude and ultimately ineffective way to deal with urban deer. This region has thirteen municipalities (13 mayors and councils, folks — think of that!). Not all have chosen this option of deer “management.” Saanich, the largest municipality, adjoins Oak Bay; in fact, the boundary between the two runs through the campus of the University of Victoria. Deer live on the university grounds and in other parts of Saanich, and I doubt that they know where the border is. The 25 animals killed as part of Oak Bay’s pilot project will shortly be replaced from adjoining populations.

Aside from the brutality of the methods used, the thing that bothers me is that other, creative options were not even considered. The only question was whether to have a cull. Why not spend the $12,500 on testing fertility control, monitoring deer movements or setting up a way for gardeners to share information about deer resistant plants and plant protection techniques? Why the big rush to kill, rather than taking time to observe, learn and share information?

I am a keen gardener. My garden has been visited by deer and sustained a certain amount of damage, but really, it’s not the end of the world. Plants recover, or can be replaced. Paying attention and protecting susceptible plants, or setting up simple fencing can make a huge difference.

The issue of deer being hit by cars is a misleading one, as though it’s better to kill the animals with bolt guns before they can be hit by cars. Oak Bay is almost 100% residential, with no high-speed roads. The maximum speed limit is 50 km/hr (30 mph), with many streets having posted speeds of 40 or even 30 km/hr (25 or 20 mph). If people insist on speeding or distracting themselves while driving, you can hardly blame deer for the subsequent collisions. Apropos of this, when a resident wanted to put up a warning sign based on her observations of deer using a certain spot to cross a road, she was told this wasn’t permitted.

Then there’s the trumped up safety issue — savage deer attacking children and pets. If such an incident had occurred within the borders of Oak Bay, you can be sure it would have received maximum publicity, which has not been the case. There are people (such as myself, for example) who are terrified of finding big white grubs when digging in the garden — complete with adrenaline jolt, panicky little dance and running away screaming — but I don’t expect the municipality to start a grub eradication program on my behalf.

Urban deer are here to stay. The sooner we figure out how to live with them, the better. I hate the idea of this cull becoming an issue that pits neighbour against neighbour, leads to demonstrations, letter-writing wars and a divided community. I am distressed at the prospect of Oak Bay becoming known as “that place where they kill deer.”

March 2, 2013

This buck used to hang out in my back garden until I put up some deer netting across his preferred point of entry. I’d rather have him around than guys with bolt guns.