Deer on Mayne Island

The Deer Problem on Mayne Island

In the summer of 2013 the Conservancy and the Mayne Island Ratepayers Association entered into a consultative process with the aim of providing the Fish & Wildlife Branch of the Provincial Government a position paper that reflects the wishes of the community with respect to the handling of the of the over-population of deer on Mayne Island. The following paragraphs outlined nature of the then current situation, with links to further resources. The page concluded with a feedback form which has been removed, though the preamble and closing statement, as well as the questions asked to sample community opinion have been retained. Subsequently three "town hall" meetings, were held and other communication avenues pursued. A final report was written and summarized in our fall Newsletter. The next page has the text of the full report.


There are two species of deer on Mayne Island; native black tail deer (Odocoileus hemionus) and non-native fallow deer (Dama dama). Though these species look similar in many ways, they do not interbreed. The fallow deer originated from a farm on Mayne Island that operated in the 1980’s and 1990’s. A small number of fallow deer escaped from that farm in the early 1990’s. The farm is no longer active, and there are no captive deer remaining on Mayne Island.

Since 1996, the British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations has provided annual permits to up to six Mayne Island local hunters to hunt specifically fallow deer on private lands where they have received prior permission from the land owners. As a result between 2003 and 2011 there have been 438 fallow deer bucks and 311 fallow deer does killed on Mayne Island. Rough estimates of the number of fallow deer left on the island range from 500 – 1000, a number that is thought to increase every year despite existing management. Without management actions to date, it is estimated there would be up to 4,000 fallow deer on Mayne Island today.

Black tail deer on Mayne Island are estimated to number 500-1000. Due to overpopulation the black tail deer on Mayne Island are suffering in health. In the absence of natural predators such as cougars, wolves, and bears the population of black tail deer has increased far beyond its natural size.

Risks of Uncontrolled Growth

Study after study in recent years has shown that uncontrolled growth of deer populations carry with it an ecological hazard manifested by decreased biodiversity. The result of intense browsing is a permanent and increasingly radical alteration of shrub architecture leading to habitat loss for some important species, for instance, ground nesting songbirds. As deer increase in density, and their health suffers as a result of competition for food, the presence of diseases within a deer population are expected to increase. There are many examples globally of human and livestock pathogens originating from wild deer populations. Therefore one benefit of lower deer density on Mayne Island is the reduced risk of disease transmission to humans and livestock

Mitigating Actions

There is an immediate opportunity to lodge a request with Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to modify the hunting regulations as they pertain to Mayne Island. The paragraphs above summarise the challenges that are presented by an over abundance of species that are not controlled by natural predation. The following documents define the problem and identify actions that could be taken as a response:

  1. Facts about deer and hunting on Mayne Island here
  2. How does deer overpopulation affect Mayne Island's ecosystems here
  3. Frequently asked questions about deer management and hunting on Mayne Island here
  4. B.C. hunting regulations for Region 1 (Vancouver Island) here
  5. Regional study by UBC on deer and their effects on Gulf Islands, Martin et al., 2013 here
Items 1 & 3 have been compiled with the assistance of Mayne Island Residents & Ratepayers Association
The full Mayne Island Conservancy Society's report "Assessing the effects of deer browse on Mayne Island’s Ecosystems" written by Rob Underhill, the Conservancy's Biologist has been accepted by the MICS Board and may be read here

Feedback Form to Sample Community Opinion

The online form carrying the following preamble, questions and closing statement, together with a hard copy form circulated on Mayne, generated a large number of responses, mostly from full time residents:

Mayne Island is the only Southern Gulf Island that bans deer hunting. The ban was instituted in 1973 at the request of some local residents. Currently, a small number of residents are specially permitted to hunt the introduced, invasive fallow deer. The Fish and Wildlife Branch of the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations is encouraging Mayne Island to re-introduce a hunting season for deer. This would open the hunting of fallow deer and black tail deer to hunters with regular hunting licenses.
  1. Do you support the Fish & Wildlife’s proposal to re-introduce a deer hunting season?

  2. If you answered “No” to question 1, what are your concerns?

  3. Are you full time, part time, or a non resident of Mayne Island?

  4. Do you have any further thoughts or comments regarding deer hunting on Mayne Island?
We appreciate you taking the time to answer this questionnaire. Your feedback will help the community of Mayne Island to come to a solution for the over-abundance of deer on the island and the resulting degradation of the natural environment.

Final Report

As a result of online and hard copy feedback, together with opinions expressed at our community forums the Conservancy and MIRRA produced a final report which is reproduced in full on the next page.

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