Black-tailed Deer in the City: A Scientific Approach to Population Control Using Immunocontraception

This webinar, which was originally presented on November 17, 2022, examined the increasing abundance and density of urban Columbian black-tailed deer that has become a growing concern in Victoria, British Columbia, on the west coast of Canada. This increase in wildlife-human conflict was largely driven by high perceived urban deer populations resulting in deer vehicle collisions, impacts on personal property and gardens, and even occasional aggressive animal encounters.

Passionate citizens with divergent views about how best to manage the issue made for a politically and socially charged situation. A grassroots society pulled together academics and practitioners to launch a scientific study on the efficacy of immunocontraception (IC) to curtail deer.

The implementation of a multipronged approach that paid specific attention to the social, political, and ecological dimensions of this wildlife-human conflict has led to significant progress on all fronts. A public education campaign accompanied a scientific study using satellite telemetry collars and remote cameras to investigate deer ecology.

An immunocontraception program was implemented using Zonastat (porcine zona pellucida vaccine) deployed after chemical immobilization on treatment animals, and captured and tagged a control group. The large number of marked animals were detected frequently within an array of wildlife cameras, which allowed us to model changes to reproductive success.  Spatial capture-recapture analysis is being used to estimate population size and response to treatment, providing the scientific follow-up to better measure the ecological outcomes of the intervention.

About the Presenters:

Dr. Jason T Fisher,  Ad. Professor, School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria. Jason has a M.Sc. in Ecology from University of Alberta and a Ph.D. in Ecology from UVic. He is Head of the Applied Conservation Macro Ecology (ACME) Lab and has been researching large mammals and landscapes for over 20 years. With 61 peer-reviewed publications, Jason’s research program involves several multi-stakeholder partnerships including First Nations, government, industry, and eNGOs, and has been profiled in TV, radio, and print media.

Dr. Adam Hering, DVM (U. Calgary), Ph.D. (U Saskatchewan). Adam is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and holds a Ph.D. in Wildlife Epidemiology. He has ten years experience as a clinical veterinarian practicing mixed, small animal, and emergency medicine. He also spent seven months working for the provincial government as a wildlife health biologist, and leads the field team of the deer contraception programs in the greater Victoria area. He has completed hundreds of wildlife captures, primarily on native Canadian ungulate species.