Many of us who are long time Island residents always wondered why is it deer have invaded urban areas all along the east coast of Vancouver Island in the past 10 to 15 years? So I put that question to both the guys down at our local sporting goods store, which caters to local hunters, Tyee Marine and Briony Penn, adjunct professor of environmental studies at the University of Victoria. And they both basically came up with the same answer.
To quote Ms. Penn: “Our coastal blacktails are very dependent in the winter on arboreal lichens which accumulate on older trees and most particularly on the old growth of south facing slopes where the sun hits the slope, and the combination of sun and old growth canopy reduces snow cover. It is places like McLaughlin Ridge (over by Port Alberni and recently mowed down by TimberWest) that provide critical winter habitat, especially when bad weather hits. When you lose this habitat the deer die or move to the cities to munch on tulips in the winter. And, of course, cougars follow the deer. And…It is the fundamental reason we have cougar problems…”
So there you have it, more on the environmental disaster we are currently dealing with here in the Valley; all thanks to the creation of the Private Managed Forests Land Act back in 2003 by a newly elected Liberal government. In essence, the bill served as one colossal giveaway to the two timber corporations, TimberWest and Island Timberlands, since there’s been virtually no government oversight of their operations here along the east coast of the Island since that day.
As one old logger so aptly stated, “The fox was left in charge of the chicken house” and, as a result, not only has all our incredible first growth virtually disappeared but now any mature second growth, (70 to 120 year old timber) is going, going…gone!! All which would have provided ideal habitat to blacktail deer and their close associates: the cougar.