Managing non-native deer in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve

What’s the issue?

Two men beside a fence which divides the terrain into a section with undergrowth and a section without. The contrast is obvious between a fenced-off area inaccessible to deer (left side of fence) and an area accessible to deer (right side of fence). Photo: © Todd Golumbia

Herds of non-native European fallow deer are gobbling up the forest on Sidney Island, in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. First introduced in the early 20th century, their numbers, along with the native black-tailed deer, have risen dramatically over the decades. Both types of deer are not picky eaters, and have been stripping Sidney Island of most understory plants, impeding forest regeneration and further endangering species that are already at risk, including the foothill sedge and Edwards’ beach moth. Left unchecked – because of a lack of natural predators and limited traditional harvest by Indigenous people – fallow and black-tailed deer will irreparably change the Sidney Island ecosystem. Staff at Gulf Islands National Park Reserve are determined to limit the damage and restore the forest.

What’s our approach?

  • Work collaboratively with landowners on Sidney Island, other jurisdictions and Indigenous partners to develop a sustainable approach to remove fallow deer from the island.
  • Develop and implement additional complementary strategies to restore affected species at risk and species of cultural importance in forested areas of Sidney Island.
  • Monitor and document results and adjust restoration practices if necessary.
  • Communicate with local communities, stakeholders and the broader Canadian public to garner understanding and support for the restoration project.

What’s been accomplished?

  • Initiated consultations with stakeholders, Indigenous people and landowners on an approach for removing fallow deer from Sidney Island.
  • Formed Indigenous knowledge working group with local Indigenous people, with plans to implement an elder’s and youth culture camp in 2018.
  • Developed a communication strategy and public information sheet.
  • Secured resources to continue planning and implementing the remainder of the project by 2022.