The city of Ann Arbor has begun planning for this year’s wintertime deer cull, the second iteration of the city’s four-year plan to manage its deer population.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources gave Ann Arbor permission to kill up to 100 deer within city boundaries last December. The first part of the cull took place earlier this year between January and March, killing 63 deer.
Ann Arbor released its 2017 deer management plan, which calls for the use of both a lethal cull and non-lethal sterilization methods to control the deer population, Friday. The management plan also proposes developing an educational program for residents to protect their property, such as by fencing or refraining from keeping certain plants.
The cull was highly unpopular among many citizens and some members of City Council — when the it was first introduced — citizens expressed concern over residents’ safety and the moral considerations of implementing a cull in the city. However, the cull was approved 8-1 by city council, and a majority of residents surveyed were in favor of it.
The management plan states that, provided non-lethal methods are practical and cost effective, the city will sterilize 40 to 60 deer, as well as aim to kill 100 more in the next year.
“Our goal this year is to evaluate these methods both individually and collectively so we can see what is a cost-effective means of achieving the community’s tolerance for the impacts of having the deer herd in the area,” said City Administrator Howard Lazarus.
Lazarus said he believes that the education component presents a great opportunity to work with advocates of non-lethal method to find different means and methods to control the deer population.
The Humane Society of Huron Valley, an advocate for non-lethal means of population control, said this week they disapprove of the 2017 Deer Management Plan. Tanya Hilgendorf, president and CEO of Humane Society of Huron Valley, said there is no absolutely no need for a cull.
“We think the plan is completely unnecessary and inhumane,” Hilgendorf said on behalf of the Humane Society. “We have no deer emergency in Ann Arbor. We have no public health or safety problems. The deer are not suffering. We don’t have close to an overpopulation.”
Hilgendorf also charged the cull goes against city values like tolerance and nonviolence.
“We should absolutely not be using violence to solve our problems and teaching our kids that when we are frustrated we take out our guns,” said Hilgendorf. “We see so much violence in our world against people and animals, and have so much worry every single day about people getting shot. Do we really need more shooting and more killing?”
As part of the 2017 plan, the city will develop a data collection plan for measuring the success of the lethal, non-lethal and educational programs. Success will be determined by looking at property damage, vehicular accidents and the health of the deer herd, looking for indications of Chronic Wasting disease in deer or Lyme disease in humans.
At Monday evening’s City Council meeting, the council also approved a first-read vote on two ordinances that would allow discharge of firearms on city land. Those ordinances will come back for a second read in front of the council on Nov. 14, where the council will also vote to approve a contract with White Buffalo, the vendor chosen to carry out both the lethal and non-lethal methods.
Lazarus said city officials have had extensive meetings and discussions with various groups of interested stakeholders, including animal rights activists that are against the cull and groups that are in support of thinning the deer population through a cull.
“They are not going to agree with everything we ultimately decide to do but they have had the opportunity to help us shape the management plan as it exists now,” he said.