OUR VIEW: Classic deer dilemma

Don’t feed the deer. It’s a simple thing to do - or not do as the case may be

Don’t feed the deer.

It’s a simple thing to do — or not do, as the case may be. And it could help control the burgeoning population of deer on the south Island.

It is, however, not going to be the one thing that keeps their numbers down, as farmers face crop losses due to the voracious animals.

The Capital Regional District is taking its deer management strategy to three municipalities — Central and North Saanich and the District of Saanich —  the places most affected by what is described as larger-than-acceptable deer populations. The strategy, which includes higher fences, more hunting options and better public education, faces an uphill public relations battle as it pits urban versus rural — the needs of farmers on the peninsula, squaring off with suburbanites who have gardens, but still like the deer around — or at least not killed in any large scale.

Dealing with crop-damaging pests has always been an issue for farmers. These days, however, the farms are surrounded by homes and public sensitivities. This regional strategy presents some clear challenges to our communities, not the least of which are the hunting options. Hunting becomes more difficult at the same time as homeowners react violently when a predator like a cougar or wolf is spotted doing what it does best — controlling deer.

It’s a classic dilemma. Balancing public sensitivities with a farmer’s right to protect their land and livelihood.

Our reaction to predators alone shows just how bad at managing wildlife humans really are. Instead of letting cougars, bears and wolves do what comes naturally, an irrational fear of “what might happen” takes over and the predator is removed or killed. The deer are then left to propagate unabated, leaving behind other consequences — one being that they’re just too cute to kill.

Deer damage crops. Farmers have been clear on that. Now, the region is faced with doing something about it, other than sitting back and waiting for inbreeding and disease to do the job for them.