Despite the January cold, about 20 Ann Arbor residents marched to Nichols Arboretum on Monday to protest the University of Michigan’s decision to allow a deer cull on campus. The culling officially started on Monday in various parks around Ann Arbor, including Nichols Arboretum.
The march was organized by the Friends of Ann Arbor Wildlife in Nature, an animal rights group formed in opposition to the lethal deer management program the city of Ann Arbor has been pursuing since last year.
LSA junior Aaron Brodkey, president of the Michigan Animal Respect Society, said he joined the march to oppose what he saw as wrongful human intervention in nature, and suggested the city explore non-lethal options.
“Personally, I just think it’s maybe wrong or rash to make this decision,” Brodkey said. “I feel like we’re taking it into our own hands and playing God in this position and saying, ‘Hey, we need to massacre 100 deer for who knows what reason?’ ”
However, Community Relations Director Jim Kosteva told the Daily in a previous article that the Council’s decision to cull is supported by ample scientific evidence, an opinion with which many University biologists agree. Kosteva said deer grazing has significantly damaged University property in a way that is environmentally and financially unsustainable.
“The Nichols Arboretum, which is expected to be a showcase and living laboratory of diverse species, has been unable to establish many seedlings due to the overgrazing of the deer herd,” Kosteva wrote. “The University has also incurred a significant loss of landscape materials, particularly on North Campus, that have been consumed or damaged by deer. Replacing that material has required a costly diversion of funds that otherwise could support more mission centered activities.”
The protesters gathered at the corner of North University Avenue and State Street, and made their way across the Diag to the Arboretum chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, U of M deer cull’s got to go” and, “Stop the shoot in the Arb.”
Sergio Muniz, Transportation Research Institute visiting scholar, said in Brazil where he is from, people are against lethal animal control and wished to see that attitude grow in Ann Arbor.
“Our animals have the right to life and peace,” Muniz said. “In Brazil, hunting is illegal … There and here, we have the same concerns about hunting. It’s not the best way to keep nature safe and healthy.”
When the protesters reached the Arboretum, they formed a circle passed around LED candles and sang “We Shall Overcome,”
FAAWN member Nirmala Hanke read a speech condemning the University’s decision to allow the cull and criticized what she saw as inadequate safety procedures for students.
“We have, as human beings, created the problem of taking away the deer habitats with all of our development,” Hanke said. “Since we’ve taken their habitats they’ve come into ours. But killing several hundred when we have 140,000 people in this city who could figure out a better solution doesn’t make sense to me.”
Anthropology Prof. Jennifer Robertson expressed concern for student safety during the cull, saying having sharpshooters so close to where students gather frequently is dangerous.
“As we all know, students don’t necessarily pay attention to (warning) signs and they sometimes drink in the evenings and play in the park,” Robertson said. “And it would be really terrible if something unthinkable happens, if anybody got hurt, for example, by guns.”
As if to prove Robertson’s point, protesters spotted a jogger inside the Arboretum after hours. Although a police officer nearby tried to stop him, the jogger disappeared into the woods.
Lisa Abrams, one of the leaders of FAAWN, said incidents like these also happened last year and demonstrate how the city is not keeping its residents informed on the sharpshooters.
“(The students) didn’t really care (last year). They’re like ‘Aw, it’s not going to happen to me, it’s not going to happen to me,’ ” Abrams said. “But, you don’t know. It’s not safe. And so many people aren’t aware that this is going on, that the sharpshooters are in the parks.”
Abrams said FAAWN is placing citizen monitors at the entrances of all 13 locations to warn residents that the cull is happening.
Monday’s protest was a continuation of a protest on Jan. 17, where protesters marched to University President Mark Schlissel’s house.
FAAWN member Terry Abrams, said at the protest on Jan 17. the city’s “shoot first” attitude was illogical and simplistic.
“I would say rather than starting with the most lethal option, let’s start with some of the basic options,” Abrams said. “In other words, if the faucet’s leaking in your house, you don’t suddenly go in and tear out the bathroom and replace it with a new one, but you try to see what can we do to stop the leak.”