Broadcast email to all owners:

February 12, 2023.

Dear Neighbours,

The Council has been directed by the Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) to hold a vote to approve a critical part of SIERP, eradication of the deer, which will require a 50% plus 1 majority to pass. If the resolution passes, it will then be up to Parks Canada to determine if it has the social licence to proceed.

The Society encourages you to vote based on your vision of Sallas in the future and your personal assessment of whether eradication of the deer is necessary or whether that vision can include a small, well managed herd of fallow deer.

This letter will not re-argue the voting threshold issue, but we would like to inform you what has changed since the vote last May 5.

This time round, owners are being asked to consider eradication of the deer in a vacuum. The CRT has divided the eradication of the deer from vegetation restoration. Depending on the significance of that restoration work, new resolutions will need to be voted on at some point in the future. Owners are being asked to give up the benefits of having, and hunting, the fallow deer and must deal with all the disruption that goes with eradication. And we are asked to approve this without the certainty that we will get something back.

Parks Canada (PC) has already passed responsibility for broom removal to the strata’s ECO committee with costs coming from the strata’s budget. And even if the eradication resolution is passed, there will still need to be at least one other vote on the vegetation work. And first, a voting threshold will have to be set by Council which could be challenged before the CRT. More uncertainty. Finally, the current amendments to the vegetation restoration part of SIERP are unclear except that PC wants to proceed to remove the hawthorns.

We now have one more year with no monitoring of the island’s vegetation except what is in exclosures. This makes your own observations of the island, as it exists today, critical. The report by UBC based on students’ observations during the summer of 2018 concluded that since 2013, there was a 30% improvement in native plant cover and an almost doubling of diversity. Yet there were many more deer on the island between 2013 and 2019 than now. What have you seen over the past 5 years? Do you see an “impoverished” island as stated by the strata’s SIERP representatives? Or do you see a continuation of the increasing diversity noted in 2018? Have you noticed that less deer has meant that the airstrip meadow and your own lawns require more frequent mowing, particularly for fire prevention? And we have not yet tried alternatives to eradication, for example, the assisted dispersal of plants outside exclosures to diversify the understory. We don’t know which or how much of any new vegetation a healthy fallow deer will eat.

The appearance of Sidney Island after eradication remains speculative. Absent sufficient

proof that the past problems of overabundance of deer have not been dealt with by the hunting program, the eradication should not proceed.

This past year has confirmed that the biggest uncertainty facing Sidney Island is climate change and we need to prepare for its impact on all strata property, not just the common property. We have now experienced another dramatic year of more extreme and unpredictable weather. We know cedar trees are dying and ocean spray is rebounding. Our tree planting practices are changing with the recognition that diversity is key to a resilient forest. Any assumption that plants that grew on the island 150 years ago will withstand climate change or capture the most carbon has not been demonstrated. We need to look forward and not back, not trying to replicate the ecology of the past but planning for a resilient ecology for the future. A diverse ecosystem can include a small, controlled herd of deer who like to eat broom.

At the time of the last vote, the fate of the blacktail deer was uncertain. Now the plan is to gradually re-introduce them. Once the contract with Parks Canada ends, the strata will have to pay future costs of relocation and the ongoing monitoring of vegetation and culling of the blacktail deer to ensure they do not become overly abundant – at a time when the hunting program will no longer exist.

As some hunters and owners have observed, the current deer population appears either stable or reduced from last year at this time. The deer management program involves owners and their friends removing an average of 92 deer a year, resulting in the experience and camaraderie of hunting as part of a very safe, well managed and cost-free program. This provides healthy, non-commercially raised meat to hunters and their families (the ‘ahi tuna’ of red meat), provides venison burgers and other venison treats at community events, and provides the wonderful aesthetic of living with deer in the wild. Only very rarely is a black tail deer killed because they just don’t taste as good as fallow deer and they present less of a challenge to the hunters.

Globally, the Covid virus has been found in 19 different species, mostly animals that are domestic or living in captivity, notably cats and dogs. One percent of Manitoba white tail deer have been found to have the Covid virus and deer are being closely monitored across Canada and the US. However, very recent Canadian studies, not available last May, concluded that despite humans introducing the virus to deer, there’s no clear evidence of it spilling back into humans. There is of course a risk of this happening in the future. But it is not a catastrophic risk, and it is not a reasonable basis for approving eradication.

The most recent Parks Canada Safety and Communications Summary is now available. It doesn’t matter if you are for or against eradication, you really need to read through this document which explains the treatment and inconvenience owners are going to experience coming and going, as well as just spending time on the island. Take note that if you are planning on building in the next few years, owners are responsible for ensuring contractors present during the eradication are registered and attend a mandatory webinar on safety and communication procedures. The Summary is very detailed and describes the elaborate process of aerial and ground operations and how various zones of the island can be accessed. 

As of January, the SPCA had not yet seen or approved the eradication plan as set out in the agreement. There is no scientific dispute that deer are sentient beings who suffer pain and emotional stress. Relevant wildlife control principles include considering whether the animals are causing significant harm to (among other things) an ecosystem, require actions affecting animals to be based on the specifics of the situation rather than on negative labels (pest, overabundant) and involve harming the fewest number of animals. There is no question that the deer caused significant harm in the early 2000s but there really aren’t that many deer left on the island.

Please take a look at our new website for more detailed information.

In summary, thanks to the well organized and successful work of the strata’s hunting program, we are now experiencing a consistently very low deer density. We believe that owners will regret eradicating the fallow deer in hopes of a slightly increased pace of already improving vegetation. We encourage you to vote based on what you see as you enjoy our beautiful island. If you cannot attend the SGM, make sure you give someone your proxy so that your voice is heard.


— Jack and Ruth Albrecht for the Sidney Island Deer Management Society Board of Directors