Petition demands University stop funding deer cull

Sunday, January 22, 2017 - 3:07pm

Ann Arbor residents protest the deer cull at a City Council meeting in Larcom City Hall in 2016.

Ann Arbor residents protest the deer cull at a City Council meeting in Larcom City Hall in 2016. Buy this photo
File Photo/Daily

 

A petition calling on the University of Michigan to retract its funding for the recent decision to allow a deer cull on campus has recently been gaining traction online, with 1,097 supporters as of Sunday night.

The petition, addressed to President Mark Schlissel, Community Relations Director Jim Kosteva and Board of Regents members, was created two weeks ago by Mary Sarsfield and asks the University to hold onto its values of environmentalism and diversity.

“Please rescind the University's decision to allow sharpshooters on campus to kill deer,” the petition reads. “In addition to the myriad safety issues a cull presents and the waste of funds, the rationale is simple-minded.”

This year, the University allowed a deer cull on its properties, including Nichols Arboretum, for the first time. The University is contributing about $25,000 out of a total $250,000 to the deer cull effort.

Kosteva said in a press release the decision to allow a cull on campus is a show of goodwill toward the community.

“The city has graciously undertaken the bulk of the legwork involved — researching, doing its homework and completing the first year of the cull,” Kosteva said. “Now that they have the experience, they said the cull could be more successful with our participation and we want to do our part by being a good neighbor in this way, while ensuring the safety of University-based constituents.”

The city of Ann Arbor has been pursuing a lethal deer management program since last year. However, the decision to cull has invited a great amount of pushback from animal rights activists and environmentally conscious city residents, who argue the deer cull is unethical and lacks sound scientific evidence to warrant one. A city report from last year found that while 54 percent of residents support lethal methods, 45 percent oppose them.

Tanya Hilgendorf, president and CEO of the Humane Society of Huron Valley, berated the University’s approach of killing deer first instead of reconsidering what brought Ann Arbor to this controversy in the first place.

“Humans have created this problem and now they want to scapegoat animals, literally blame them for the sins that are our own,” Hilgendorf wrote in a previous email interview to the Daily. “If we are so concerned about biodiversity why is the City and the University of Michigan still dousing our natural areas with toxic, cancer causing, bee and butterfly-killing chemicals? Why are both still embracing aggressive land development? Do we really think deer more destructive than bulldozers?”

In the letter accompanying the petition, Sarsfield wrote that she was disappointed that the University’s mission of cultivating the “leaders and best” slogan — which she interpreted as rejecting “antiquated, violent ‘solutions’ ” — did not apply to the deer cull.

“If UM joins this cull, it will be joining an approach of ‘shoot first, ask questions later,’ ” Sarsfield wrote. “Violence should be our last resort, not our first.”

Sarsfield also argued Ann Arbor’s deer management program is a waste of taxpayer money because the deer population will inevitably rebound every year.

“Urban culls are nothing more than a political quick fix,” Sarsfield wrote. “As Ann Arbor is not an island and the Arboretum has no surrounding fence, the deer will quickly rebound through increased birth rates and migration, and so both the taxpayers and (the University) will have wasted money.”

However, Kosteva argued the council’s decision to cull was scientifically valid, a view that many University biologists subscribe to. According to Kosteva, deer grazing has significantly damaged University property financially and ecologically.

“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 in an email interview. “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.”

Ann Arbor resident Fran Martin commented on the petition page that a deer cull on University property would destroy the last haven for deer in Ann Arbor.

“If deer are not safe in Nicols (sic) Arboretum, where are they safe?” Martin wrote. “There are no homes at which these vicious, aggressive dangerous animals can eat shrubs. Deer are beautiful, docile, non-aggressive shy animals. The Arb should be their home. I could go on about the ecosystem, but I won't. Shame on the University of Michigan. I am appalled.”