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in the 1980’s and 1990’s. A small number of fallow deer escaped from that farm in the early 1990’s. The farm is no longer active, and there are no captive deer remaining on Mayne Island.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.
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
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:
- Facts about deer and hunting on Mayne Island here
- How does deer overpopulation affect Mayne Island's ecosystems here
- Frequently asked questions about deer management and hunting on Mayne Island here
- B.C. hunting regulations for Region 1 (Vancouver Island) here
- 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 AssociationThe 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