A deer, sporting ear tags, crosses Beach Drive across from the Victoria Golf Club in Oak Bay. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)

A deer, sporting ear tags, crosses Beach Drive across from the Victoria Golf Club in Oak Bay. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)

Plant-based diets makes of deer, rabbit poop fair game in garden compost

Nutrient-rich feces can work safely as fertilizer, say Vancouver Island wildlife veternarians

Deer poop can indeed go in regular compost, according to local wildlife veterinarians.

Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society president Kristy Kilpatrick sat down with her team in response to a Black Press reader’s question and agreed that deer eat plants and grass, so feces can be put into flower gardens or compost, recycling the nutrients.

Black-tailed deer, the species seen throughout the Capital Regional District, thrive near forest edges and prefer the underbrush for foraging. Because of this, wooded suburban environments such as golf courses, parks and roadside green belts are especially attractive. Their main food item for the deer is the growing tips of trees and shrubs, but they will also consume fruit, nuts, acorns, fungi and lichens, according to UWSS biologists.

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“Our veterinarians weighed in and said they’re not aware of any zoonotic diseases that can be caught from deer or rabbit feces,” Kilpatrick said. “In fact the harm is to the deer; some plants that they eat from gardens are either poisonous to animals or covered in toxic pesticides, causing them to become sick.”

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UWSS formed in 2015, in response to urban deer concerns in Oak Bay. The organization is now responsible for a program of deer population tracking and administration of an immunocontraception project in the community.

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Between fall 2019 and fall 2020, a total of 120 does were vaccinated as part of the Oak Bay program. All does received a first dose in 2019, with some receiving a booster in 2020. Esquimalt plans to implement a similar approach for its deer population, also utilizing UWSS expertise.

The society is also rooted in education and offers gardening resources at uwss.ca/deer-resistant-gardening.

READ ALSO: Parks Canada wants to eradicate invasive deer on Sidney Island


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