Another day, another doe - black-tailed deer capture with the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society in Oak Bay, BC
The Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society (UWSS) is implementing a research project to better understand Columbian black-tailed deer movement and population density in the Oak Bay area of Southern Vancouver Island. In February and March 2018, 20 adult females will be fitted with radio-collars for two years of data collection. These results will inform the BC government's long-term wildlife management plans.
In the field
So how do we collect data on deer movement? The UWSS team is using Lotek satellite GPS collars which take fixes in real time every few hours on the location of the deer. These collars are programmed to fall off after 2 years and are carefully fitted to allow room for potential growth during this period.
The Capture team includes a wildlife veterinarian who is responsible for sedation and animal health & care as well as expert scientists, graduate students, and other volunteers from the UWSS.
The capture process involves surveying for deer by car within the boundaries of Oak Bay, BC. Once an adult doe has been identified and sedated by a veterinarian, the capture team collects blood, hair, ear biopsy, and fecal samples and fits the doe with the GPS collar & ear tag.
To date, 13 does have been successfully collared. This has been my first experience with capture & collar methods for large mammals and it has been absolutely great! I have been analyzing telemetry data for white-tailed deer for two years without having that hands-on experience of actually fitting the collars on the animals, so this has been a special experience for me.
***UPDATES*** March 21 2018
Today we captured & collared the 20th and final doe of the project which was very exciting for the team, but bitter sweet because this field work has been a lot of fun.
As with any field work, there were some obstacles along the way but I am quite impressed by the preparedness of the UWSS and the wildlife vet in terms of public safety and awareness, team communication, and the utmost care and consideration of the animals.
During the course of the collaring period we had 3 defective collars which were replaced in time for us to recapture does with our permit. Though an inconvenience, we were able to use manual VHF tracking to locate the collared does and quickly swap out the defects (Phew!).
Some of the sweetest moments from the past few weeks for me were being a part of such an incredible, knowledgeable and dedicated team. I feel very grateful to have been a part of this project and to work alongside some top notch people. Special thanks to our wildlife vet who showed me how to collect all of the samples, and for patiently teaching me how to successfully collect blood!
Other nice moments were watching yearlings reunite with the does once they had woken up. These were precious moments that I was lucky to capture in some cases.
And finally, the amount of support coming from the Oak Bay community has been overwhelming. As part of the collaring process, we spoke with homeowners about the urban deer project and asked their permission to sedate does that were on their property. We received permission from almost every house which made our jobs that much easier (because it's not always easy to capture large mammals!). Many people expressed their support of finding more science-based, long-term management solutions for urban deer that do not involve culling. With this data, the UWSS will be able to provide the best recommendations possible for moving forward with deer management.
Stay tuned with the UWSS for project updates and the next phase of the research project administering immunocontraceptives.