A Parks Canada project that involves the shooting and killing of fallow deer on Sidney Island – just off the coast of Sidney – is set to get underway Friday.
Fallow deer were brought to Sidney Island in the early 1900s.
Since then, the federal government, along with the Tsawout and Tsartlip First Nations, say they’ve had trouble protecting native plants, such as the Coastal Douglas Fir.
The Sidney Island Ecological Project, also known as SḰŦÁMEN QENÁȽ,ENEȻ SĆȺ, was approved earlier this year to cull the deer and preserve the ecosystem.
Erik Pelkey, the W̱SÁNEĆ Hereditary Chief, has previously told CHEK News, the animals have essentially eradicated important plants that their people have used for centuries.
“They’ve eaten away all the medicinal plants our people usually go out there to Sidney Island for, all the ferns that our people use for salmon cooking and all the other natural plants have all been decimated,” said Pelkey.
Parks Canada says the current fallow deer population is unknown but estimates between 300 and 900.
Phase 1 of the project, starting Friday, will cost approximately $834,000 and will see the deployment of trained marksmen on board one helicopter for five days for a maximum duration of five hours each day.
Phase 2 of the operation will take place between fall 2024 and spring 2025. During this phase, ground crews will round up any remaining deer using scent-tracing dogs.
Trained First Nations harvesters, with support from Parks Canada staff, will recover meat, hides, and other materials, which will be distributed within local First Nations communities.
It’s expected the native black-tailed deer will also be eradicated during this process, but Parks Canada believes this population will return.
This cull has had organizations, like the Animal Alliance of Canada, questioning how Parks Canada came to the decision and the method they’re using.
“It’s a brutal process and one that I think paints a very black eye of Parks Canada,” says Liz White, a director of Animal Alliance of Canada.
For months, advocates have been pushing back against this method, there was even a protest held in Sidney in early November.
There has also been written letters to the federal government urging them to step in and put a pause on the cull altogether, or come up with another strategy.
“We know that on an island you can use immuno-contraceptive birth control to actually bring the population down and in fact ultimately eliminate the population with out going to these extremes, it just takes a little bit longer and a little more work,” says White.
However, Parks Canada says the strategy chosen to solve the problem was not only reviewed and supported by Parks Canada, but the Province of British Columbia, and the BC Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BC SPCA).