City Council is laying the groundwork to resume its controversial wintertime deer cull, with an affirmative first-read vote on two ordinances that would facilitate a continuation of lethal culling operations by USDA shooters.

Approval during first reading does not enact an ordinance; rather, it means the policy will be advanced to be further discussed at a public hearing and voted on in a Nov. 14 special meeting for final approval.

The two resolutions would modify city laws to create exceptions for any cull-related personnel to operate firearms after hours in select city parks, in accordance with Ann Arbor’s deer management policy. One would change park regulations to allow sharpshooters in parks if allowed by state law; the other would amend the firearm code to allow individuals to be exempt from some regulations if they were operating under a city wildlife control protocol. 

While the resolution regarding park regulations was passed unanimously by all 10 members of the council, Mayor Christopher Taylor voted against a provision specifically regarding firearm codes — as has been consistent with his past positions on the cull — arguing that the use of firearms in public spaces would be unsafe.

“I believe that the discharge of lethal firearms in our parks is inconsistent with our community values,” Taylor said.

The city’s deer management program was originally approved in 2015, and its first iteration lasted from January to March of this year, with 63 deer killed by USDA sharpshooters — 37 short of the goal of 100. The issue of the cull also proved to be heavily polarizing, with large numbers of residents openly protesting the program in the council’s meetings and at designated shooting sites due to safety concerns and concerns over animal rights.

According to a memo from City Administrator Howard Lazarus, the second iteration of the cull will add a non-lethal sterilization program for 40 to 60 deer, in addition to plans to shoot a further 100 deer at night in closed-off city parks. 

Also present at Monday night’s meeting were a number of residents to speak in opposition to the lethal cull during the public commentary period. One of these speakers, Hope Carroll, urged the city move toward non-lethal deer population control methods.

“Our lethal cull remains an extremely divisive issue in our city, and I encourage you to consider the many alternatives to a cull,” Carroll said.

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