Deer Management on Sidney Island

This document is being submitted to express to all Sidney Island owners that the Sidney Island hunting community, which includes owners and their guests, have great confidence in its ability to control both the fallow deer and blacktail deer population on Sidney Island. Our deer management program that we have used in the past 15 years, includes recreational hunting, which has been limited to 45 days per season and usually starts in late October and goes until early March. These hunts are limited to owners and owner guests and are in 5 – 9 day segments. We have a well regulated, safe and efficient hunt on Sidney Island. We follow all provincial guidelines and have extra safety measures embedded in our hunt. The number of hunters in each of our 7 mapped out areas is limited to 1, 2 or 3 hunters, depending on the area. Each hunter is aware of who and where the hunter(s) sharing his/ her area is. We have aggressively hunted the Sidney Island fallow deer population from its high in 2005, in excess of approximately 2,000 animals, to its present population of approximately 300 deer, without any safety issues or undue interference with other Sidney Islanders’ enjoyment of the island.

Fallow deer have become a naturalized species on southern Vancouver Island region, especially in Sooke, the Alberni Valley and also on the Gulf Islands. Since fallow are not a native species Sidney Islanders had the ability to employ live captures and controlled culls to reduce the fallow deer population to its current level. Culls and live captures are methods not allowed with the common blacktail deer. This extraordinary ability ensures that we, if needed, will always have these methods to control our fallow deer population. An active 45 day hunt every year also puts hunters in the field to oversee and manage our blacktail population. Our current blacktail population, which at present is about 30 deer, will increase if not regularly harvested. Hunters, at heart, are conservationists, who are in the field yearly following these animals, recording harvest numbers and exchanging sitings. We hear the stags groan when in rut and see their wallows and antler scrapings. We witness the groups of does and young bucks as they wander from bedding areas to foraging areas. We are the most knowledgeable about our deer population, their location and numbers. Our 15 years as an active hunting community has given our island an enviable position as having the best controlled deer population in the Gulf Islands and, indeed, of any community in British Columbia that has removed the surrounding predators and now have to deal with an overabundance of deer.

Our fallow and blacktail deer are a valuable part of our biodiversity on Sidney Island. Deer browse vegetation in our forest and open fields dispersing seeds and fertilizing as they roam, Deer are not picky about vegetation species; if it’s green and tasty it gets eaten. Our two main invasive species are scotch broom and english hawthorn. Scotch broom is most commonly spread by ants and english hawthorn is most commonly spread by robins and other birds, although deer also spread these seeds with their droppings. The bulk of the vegetation consumed by our deer are native species and deer will spread these native plant seeds kilometres away from where they were consumed. Far from being destructive to our forests, our deer, in controlled numbers, are a huge benefit to our biodiversity. Our planet has suffered when we have chosen a species to eradicate or over harvest. We have a notion that we will make it right when we decide on a course of action to correct mother nature. In the case of Sidney Island, after a century of active logging and neglect of deer management, the solution is not to eradicate a species that is beneficial to the biodiversity and beneficial to our own food security but to continue with our proven deer management program.

Food and water security are two of the most important issues that confront our world in the twenty first century. I need to repeat that ” Food and Water security are the two most important issues in the 21st century”. We are so fortunate that we have 1,500 acres of common property at our disposal to build a thriving, self sustaining community. Yes, it will take vision and careful thought. It will take time and effort. It will perhaps not even be achievable in our lifetime, but it is doable, and however long it takes our children and grandchildren will be the inheritors of our thought and vision. We are blessed to have deer on our island, 1,500 acres for them to browse on and for us to harvest them. It is a rare community that has such a rich situation. These deer add beauty, seed and fertilizer dispersal, and protein for our families.The thousands of deer that have been harvested on Sidney island have provided sustenance for our families. We did sell $50,000 worth to restaurants, but the majority went to islanders’ families and friends. We know about industrial animal farming, its constant use of antibiotics and its deleterious effect on the planet and our atmosphere. Our deer management program, in its own small way, has done, and is doing, a huge benefit for the environment. We previously harvested up to 500 animals a year but even now with our small deer population we harvest about 100 animals; that is approximately 2,500 pounds of animal protein that doesn’t come from industrial farming. This is as organic as animal protein can get, harvested in the most humane method possible. We, and our island, have a wonderful benefit with having these animals on our island and we should treasure and manage our herd for all future generations.

We have hunters who have hunted on our Island from before we became a community in 2005 and almost every year we have new hunters joining our ranks for the opportunity to hunt on Sidney Island. The 15 year history of our efforts to manage our deer population should give every owner assurance that we can and will continue to do our safe and efficient deer management program.

— Frank Nielsen, President SIDM Society, Lot 109
— Ashley Casperson, Vice President SIDM Society, Lot 100