Ann Arbor residents opposing an impending deer cull are turning to the federal courts in an effort to halt the planned shooting of part of Ann Arbor’s deer population.
Ann Arbor Residents for Public Safety, a group that has led several protests against the cull, filed a 97-page lawsuit against the city earlier this week.
A comprehensive list of city, state and federal officials the group considers responsible for the cull were named as respondents to the suit, including Ann Arbor Mayor Chris Taylor and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R).
In September, City Council voted 8-1 to approve a deer cull as a way to manage the city’s growing deer population. The city has hired U.S. Department of Agriculture sharpshooters to kill up to 100 deer in response to complaints about the size of the deer population in the city.
The cull is scheduled to start as early as 4 p.m. Wednesday and will continue through January and February. Nearly two-dozen designated parks and nature areas will be closed from 4 p.m. to 7 a.m. on weekdays during the cull. The USDA intends to shoot the deer from inside vehicles. No University property is included in the designated sites for the cull.
“The Deer Management Plan is not supported by competent data, rationale or argument, and an urban cull such as that proposed is unprecedented in Michigan and the United States,” the suit argues. “The claim additionally states the defendants have not established the existence of any legitimate deer overpopulation problem in reality in Ann Arbor.”
Ann Arbor currently has about 15-20 deer per square mile, which the suit claims to be the amount recommended by Michigan Natural Features Inventory biologists to promote the ecological health and functioning of natural communities.
In an interview with the Daily in December, protestor Kathleen Amaru Titus said she was opposed to the cull because she felt the city was not working with the proper channels on the issue, such as the Humane Society. She said it was important for people in the area to get involved in the politics of the situation.
“We felt there ought to be a vote. A lot of people don’t know about the deer cull,” Titus said. “It’s going to horrify a lot of people. There might be some serious accidents and violence.”
Most of the plaintiffs are Ann Arbor residents from the north and east sides of the city. Some live close to parks and other areas scheduled for the cull.
In the lawsuit, they express concerns including fear for their, their neighbors and their pets safety and also “loss of enjoyment and comfort of natural resources to which they are unquestionably entitled without impairment.”
The suit also notes that neither the United States, the state of Michigan or the city of Ann Arbor has publically stated that it would stand as financially responsible in the event of any injury, death or damage caused by the cull.
The city has expressed repeatedly that they feel the cull is safe for residents, and followed the correct process.
Councilmembers who voted for the cull have continued to defend their decision to hire sharpshooters, as well as the public process that led up to the cull, which along with the lawsuit have also prompted recall petitions to be filed against members of Council.
Among the plaintiffs in the suit representing Ann Arbor Residents for Public Safety include Ann Arbor resident Sabra Sanzotta, who filed a petition in December to recall councilmember Kirk Westphal (D-Ward 2) for his support of the cull.
At the hearing to determine the legitimacy of the recall petition, Westphal said claims of the cull being unnecessary and high-risk cited in Sanzotta’s petition were overstated.
“It has become clear to me over the last couple of years that the language is patently false,” Westphal said. “I take issue with the notion that there is danger (with the cull).”