Ann Arbor’s deer cull is coming back, and it could bring widespread park closures around the city.
The deer cull has been a hotly debated topic among residents since City Council approved the procedure in August 2015. The proposal that passed outlined a four-year plan for deer management and the exploration of a deer fertility control program.
“The directive from Council arose as a result of numerous resident reports of deer damaging landscaping and natural areas as well as concerns regarding vehicle/deer collisions and deer-borne diseases,” a statement on the city website reads.
In October of this year, it was announced that the city would contract with White Buffalo, Inc. for deer sterilization and sharpshooting management services for 2018. The management program is reported to start on Jan. 2, and locations where the shooting takes place — which are largely city parks — will be closed between 3 p.m. and midnight each day.
Last year, 10 city parks were closed for the cull. Locations on this year’s list include Bird Hills Nature Area, Leslie Woods, the Leslie Park Golf Course, Olson Park and others, including some parks that weren’t used during previous culls, such as Baxter, Folkstone, Foxfire West, Glazier Hill, Narrow Gauge Way, Oakridge, Oakwoods, Sugarbush and Traver Creek Nature Area. Some parks on the list last year did not reappear on the 2018 list.
The Ann Arbor community is divided on the issue of the cull, with over 1,500 residents signing a petition as of this month that urges the city to stop the practice. At the University of Michigan, critics are also speaking out. The Friends of Ann Arbor Wildlife in Nature, an animal rights group formed to oppose the cull, staged a protest last year. People marched to the Nichols Arboretum while holding signs with phrases such as “Stop the Shoot” and “U of M: University of Murder.”
LSA senior Aaron Brodkey, president of the Michigan Animal Respect Society, participated in the march, and told The Daily last winter he felt the deer cull was unethical. He wanted to see the city to explore nonlethal 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?’”
Jim Kosteva, director of Community Relations for the University, on the other hand, told The Daily in early 2017 that the cull was necessary to preserve other aspects of wildlife in the arboretum.
“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.”
According to MLive, this year’s cull will be slightly different from previous years, as the city will also be reviewing their fencing ordinance and deer-crossing signage and increasing their deer education efforts.
Despite public opinion, the cull presses on, and a statement from the city last year regarding park closings and the cull assures safety of every being is the city’s main concern.
“Safety is the city's top priority. … Information will be provided when cull activities are completed,” the press release states.