Ann Arbor residents continue to protest controversial deer cull

Sunday, January 19, 2020 - 2:29pm

Ann Arbor resident Phil Carroll participates in a protest against the city culling deer on Washtenaw avenue outside Whole Foods Saturday afternoon. The protest was put on by the group Friends of Ann Arbor Wildlife and Nature.

Ann Arbor resident Phil Carroll participates in a protest against the city culling deer on Washtenaw avenue outside Whole Foods Saturday afternoon. The protest was put on by the group Friends of Ann Arbor Wildlife and Nature. Buy this photo
Danyel Tharakan/Daily

Around 10 Friends of Ann Arbor Wildlife in Nature members protested the city’s fifth annual deer cull on Saturday afternoon along Washtenaw Avenue. 

The controversial deer cull is a city-organized program meant to control the deer overpopulation through sharpshooting and sterilization. FAAWN members also protested against the beginning of last year’s deer cull.  

Despite freezing temperatures and icy conditions, FAAWN member Terry Abrams said he held signs for an hour to raise awareness of the deer cull and their opposition to it. 

“We’re here for a number of reasons,” Abrams said. “We oppose the killing of wildlife in the city. We think it’s morally wrong to kill the deer. We also think it is a waste of taxpayer money.” 

Abrams said he believes the city of Ann Arbor misused metrics and statistical data in calculating the deer population, which he claimed led to a renewal of the sharpshooter contract.

“The city is not using metrics to determine how many deer there are in the city or how successful the program of killing deer for the last few years has been,"  Abrams said. “So they keep renewing the (White Buffalo Inc. sharpshooter) contract.”  

Other members of FAAWN, such as Cathy Shafer, agreed with Abrams, saying she believes the city of Ann Arbor hasn’t progressed in reducing the deer population by conducting this deer cull. 

“It doesn't seem to –– according to (city officials) –– have improved the situation they’re concerned about,” Shafer said. “It isn’t going anywhere, so I think it is a waste of (taxpayer) money.”

One reason the deer cull began was in response to city officials receiving complaints that deer were eating garden plants. However, FAAWN member Marianne Lembfeld said it is the city’s construction efforts that have given the deer no choice but to come farther inside the city and eat some at some of the gardens.

“It is morally wrong to sharpshoot animals who came to this city,” Lembfeld said. “There is so much construction going on at the outskirts of Ann Arbor, where the deer used to live. Where should they go?” 

Abrams said gardeners should be taught effective ways to maintain a beneficial environment for both gardeners and deer. 

“There are methods of doing that, as there are plants that deer like and plants that deer don’t like,” Abrams said. “There’s fencing that they can employ in their gardens.”

Abrams said FAAWN members have been attending public city meetings to describe their frustrations about the deer cull. 

“There are a lot of people in the city who actually enjoy seeing deer,” Abrams stated. “So (city officials) they’re saying they’re going to address a problem because of the deer, but they’re not addressing the enjoyment that residents of Ann Arbor have by seeing the deer.” 

Ann Arbor resident Bernie Banet expressed his confusion about why deer culling is a topic of contention.

“Some of us are completely baffled at why 150 deer in Ann Arbor get all the attention from some of the animal protection groups and they say nothing about thousands of deer. It’s very strange,” Banet said. “They may have some reason for focusing on Ann Arbor, but it’s not part of a consistent ethical stance or a political opposition to hunting. It’s just a weird Ann Arbor thing.”

Christopher Dick, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Michigan, previously told The Daily he thinks the cull is necessary to keep the deer population in check and protect the local ecosystem.

“They basically eat away at the forest understory, so there’s no regeneration of the forest,” Dick said. “What happens when you have these deer take off is this destruction of their own habitat if there’s no kind of predation. If you want Ann Arbor to have healthy parks and vibrant forests that take up carbon and help mitigate climate change, if you want a safe environment for kids to grow up and not be worried about ticks and diseases associated with overabundance of deer, then we really have to think about managing this urban deer population.”

 

Reporter Gabriel Boudagh can be reached at gboudagh@umich.edu