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Sidney Island deer eradication cost surges to $12M

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The cost of a plan to eradicate an invasive species of deer from Sidney Island just off the coast of Vancouver Island has ballooned.

On Wednesday, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation shared the findings of an access-to-information request it filed, which found the federal government has set aside $12 million for the work.

Since it was first announced, Parks Canada’s decision to wipe out European fallow deer from Sidney Island – including shooting the animals from a helicopter—has been controversial. It has attracted protests, both among animal rights activists and those concerned with the cost.

Part of the cost includes bringing in sharpshooters from the U.S. and New Zealand. Previous reporting on the project has referenced a $5.9-million budget.

“Parks Canada has dreamed up the most expensive way imaginable of hunting these deer,” Carson Binda with the CTF said Wednesday.

Adding to the upset, the CTF points out local hunters killed 54 deer last fall—at no cost to taxpayers.

“Local hunters who have been managing the deer for a decade for free are obviously a better option for this cull,” Binda added.

As for the rationale behind eradication efforts, First Nations, Parks Canada and other partners have been trying to restore the ecosystem with Indigenous plants, which the invasive fallow deer love to munch on.

Parks Canada did not respond to a CTV News request for comment by broadcast deadline, but its website outlines the thinking behind the plan.

“European fallow deer were introduced to the Southern Gulf Islands in the early-to-mid-1900s, and populations have since grown consistently. Having stripped the forest understory of native tree seedlings and shrubs, the deer are the primary threat to the Coastal Douglas-fir forest ecosystem on SḰŦÁMEN (Sidney Island),” it reads.

“This extensive browsing has created ideal conditions for invasive grasses and shrubs like English hawthorn to take over. The result is an ecosystem that is missing many native and culturally significant understory plants, is lacking in habitat for songbirds and other wildlife, and is less resilient to the impacts of climate change.”

Phase 2 of the project is scheduled to begin in the fall and will involve ground hunters with dogs.

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