Upon moving to the Comox Valley at age seven, I developed a newfound appreciation and sense of amazement at the volume and diversity of wildlife in my new community. One species in particular frequented my neighbourhood–the coastal black-tailed deer. As a child, I was always happy to see these four-legged friends in my yard or during my adventures outside.
Today, as a student studying biology and an employee of WildSafeBC, I have the same appreciation of the deer. Through education and on-the-job experience, I have a better understanding of the species and its dynamic within our local ecosystems.
My involvement with WildSafeBC, a provincial program designed to reduce human–wildlife conflict, has taught me to reflect on the impact that my life has on wildlife. It has taught me how to teach this to others and, hopefully, to spark awareness within them.
Almost daily, and as part of my job, I engage in proactive and productive discussions with residents of Cumberland. Compared to conversations regarding large predators, such as black bears or cougars, the discussions I have with locals about the coastal black-tailed deer are very different. While most residents can agree on the importance of attractant management in reducing human–wildlife conflict with large predators, there seems to be a division of opinion when discussing conflict reduction with deer.
Many residents see the deer in the community as an issue, a nuisance, and are concerned about deer populations increasing. Conversely, there are residents who enjoy seeing deer in their neighbourhood and don’t mind hosting deer in their yards or gardens. Some may even go as far as to encourage their presence. Since the coastal black-tailed deer aren’t causing an immediate safety concern, I can see how the divide arises, and the importance of seeing both sides.
Deer wandering through the community may allow for the possibility of a greater appreciation, and in turn, foster greater caring and a proactive voice for the wildlife in our community. Nevertheless, it is important that this voice has the wildlife’s best interest in mind. There is also a sense of peace that comes with watching deer as they pass through and is why many residents enjoy their presence.
However, deer can also be detrimental. Apart from damaging property and gardens, deer have been known to use urban areas as shields from larger predators (e.g. cougars) and can bring them closer to residential neighbourhoods. Aggressive behaviour may be displayed towards humans or pets when a fawn is in tow, or when they have been previously fed. The may also be a vector for ticks.
Wildlife thrives where they have access to their natural food sources and within their natural ecosystem. Not only is it beneficial for the deer to reside mainly in the wild, but also it is safer for the community. The appreciation for wildlife I attained as a young girl stays with me, and I feel there is value in sharing that message, as well as encouraging informed discussion. My hope is that we can continue to work together in keeping our wildlife wild and our communities safe.