Though the first phase of the Sidney Island deer eradication project has ended, some experts still have concerns over the methods that have been used.
The first phase saw 84 deer killed on the island, using a mix of ground-based hunting and a marksmen shooting from a helicopter flying above the island.
Parks Canada says all deer from the island, including the native black-tailed deer, will be removed. This is something that the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council, who have partnered with Parks Canada on the project, says is necessary to restore the island’s native plant species.
“Fallow deer we’ve seen what they do and they’re like goats. They eat everything,” says Eric Pelkey community engagement coordinator for W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council.
“We had to take all of them (deer) to make sure that we were getting all of the fallow deer.”
The Parks Canada website further details that after consulting with project partners, including the SPCA, there was no humane way to retain the black-tailed deer on the island during the eradication, so all deer have to be removed.
Although they add the black-tail are very abundant in the region and have a long history of swimming between islands so they expect they will return eventually.
The bigger issue, according to some experts, is how they’re going about it, questioning the need and the effectiveness of using a helicopter.
“They’ve also stressed those deer to a really high level to kill them, when usually with hunter culls, the deer that we kill don’t know where the bullet came from and are dead in one humane shot,” says David Bird, professor emeritus of biology at McGill University.
Another contentious topic is the cost of the project, with the price tag for phase one topping $834,000.
“I guess I’m just deeply disappointed that Parks Canada and its allies didn’t want to even entertain the thought of sitting down to find a better and cheaper way to do this,” says Bird.
Local first nations were able to harvest around 80 deer carcasses from phase one, with the meat being distributed throughout the south island.
Phase two of the project will start in the fall of 2024. It won’t involve a helicopter, but it will still involve experienced marksman and scent-tracking dogs.