A mourning dog owner hopes the death of Ollie, a Yorkshire Terrier who died after a deer encounter the morning of Sept. 16, spurs more response to deer in the region.
“The responses to me have been really overwhelming, a lot of people are very concerned and upset by this,” said Heather Holmes, whose dog was killed last week.
She let him out to do his business before she headed off to work Sept. 16.
“I had checked for deer, I always do … I just simply didn’t see him,” Holmes said. Ollie startled a buck, hidden by a high rock in the yard. The large deer stomped on the small dog, killing it.
“It was pretty horrific. I wouldn’t want anyone to go through it,” Holmes said.
She’s only disappointed to hear some people say that more education is needed.
“It’s not about pretty gardens, it’s about public safety. How do you educate a five year old to protect themselves?
“What’s needed is to educate this vast group of people, they’re not cute Bambis, they’re urbanized predators … I want my neighbourhood back. I’m really concerned that the next time it’s going to be a child. That will happen, it may not be tomorrow but it’s going to happen.”
A passerby reported the incident that day to animal control who called and calmed Holmes and helped her through the process.
She hopes incidents like this spur more action in the Capital Region.
“My hope is the CRD gets their act together and puts a regional plan in place,” Holmes said.
“I worry it’s going to take the death or injury of child to make it happen. I don’t want that; I don’t think anybody wants that.”
What happened to Ollie is a rarity, according to the BC Conservation Service.
“It’s not a common occurrence,” said Richard Dekelver, conservation officer South Island zone.
“It’s very unfortunate but every year we get dogs chased or challenged by deer. It’s (deer) defending themselves.”
He reiterates dog owners should be cautious, with dogs leashed on walks and a scan of the yard before letting pets out, as Holmes did.
“In your own yard, a person could do a preliminary scan and see if there are deer in there. The deer are defending themselves, and the dogs are just doing what dogs do,” Dekelver said.
“They view the dogs as a threat and they’re acting defensively.”
At certain times of year, such as fawn and rutting season, which we’re entering, aggression becomes more prevalent.
“The bucks are dominant and fighting each other. They get kinda goofy in that time period where they’re not paying attention to what they’re doing,” he said, noting it’s not uncommon for them to wander into traffic this time of year.
“They’re focussed on one thing.”
The Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society, which plans to engage in a deer count and contraceptive approach with its Deer Plan Oak Bay project, advocates education as one of its primary goals.
“This very sad incident again points to the need for a sustained public education campaign on ways to reduce human-deer conflict, especially at critical times such as fawn season (May to July) and rutting season,” said Kristy Kilpatrick, vice president, UWSS.
Kilpatrick says she and her dog were attacked by a raccoon several years ago while out walking at night and an eagle carried off a small dog at Thetis Lake last spring.
“There are steps we can all take to reduce the risk of conflicts with wildlife such as deer and raccoons,” Kilpatrick said.
“The UWSS is committed to public education to reduce human-deer conflict, and to non-lethal management of urban deer populations.”
Coming UWSS initiatives include a community workshop presented in conjunction with the BCSPCA in Esquimalt on Sept. 30, along with ads in local newspapers this fall and tips online offering ways to avoid confrontations with deer.
For Holmes, the trauma continues as the buck appeared again Friday as she opened the front door to pick up her newspaper.
“It was just standing there looking at me. I just want these creatures off my property,” Holmes said.
“My dog deserved better and I deserve better and it didn’t have to happen.”
To report a conflict with wildlife that threatens public safety, call conservation at 1-877-952-7277.
“When we do get the calls regarding a situation where someone feels threatened we do follow up with them. If we did see a pattern or believe something to be out of the norm, if it was acting out as aggressive and a danger to public safety, we would engage that animal. But we haven’t seen that,” Dekelver said.
“In any circumstance I would give a buck some space, any wild animal for that matter.”