City unveils 2018 deer management plan

Wednesday, December 6, 2017 - 9:14pm

Earlier this week, Ann Arbor City Council introduced its 2018 deer management plan to the public. The city aims to eliminate up to 250 deer from Jan. 8 to Jan. 31 in the third year of its four-year deer management program. This is a large increase from winter 2017, when the city aimed to eliminate up to 100 deer.

Furthermore, the plan states that up to 26 deer will be nonlethally sterilized between Jan. 2 and 7. Last year they planned to sterilize up to 60 deer and sterilized 54.

The program began out of resident complaints about deer harming their properties.

Like last year, the lethal portion of the plan will be carried out by sharpshooters through the city’s contractor, White Buffalo Inc. It will comply with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources research permit. During the elimination, select public parks and private properties will be closed from 3 p.m. to midnight Jan. 8 through Jan. 31. The Nichols Arboretum is expected to be closed on Jan 9, 16, 19 and 23; however, it must first be approved by the University of Michigan.

Additionally, other University and Concordia University properties will potentially be shut down Jan. 8 through Jan. 31, pending authorization. In previous years, the University has agreed to allow the cull to take place on University property.

According to the implementation plan released by the city, the sharpshooting may only occur from a parked vehicle, and shooting on the city-selected private property will not occur without the owner’s consent.

The city will post signs regarding the closure in parks and nature areas that will be affected by the program at least 24 hours before the three-week process begins. Residents living adjacent to any of these areas will be notified via postcard by the end of the month. They will also use social media and other new outlets to inform residents of the sterilization program.

This is the second year the plan includes the sterilization of deer, which will also carried out by White Buffalo. The process involves darting the female deer, temporarily removing them from the area, surgically sterilizing them and returning them to the park. The process will take approximately an hour per deer, and is not expected to disturb residents.

The city is in need for volunteers to aid in the sterilization, an effort that will save many deer. The volunteers assist in tasks such as monitoring vitals during the surgery and returning the deer to their original location. There will be two shifts of volunteers throughout the nights, and they will work six to seven hours per shift, with the first beginning at 4 p.m. and the second ending at 5 a.m., from Jan. 2 to Jan 5 or 6. Each volunteer will be required to work at least two shifts, and food will be provided.

Christopher Dick, ecology and evolutionary biology professor, discussed the importance of the cull at a recent community council meeting.

“If we are able to reduce Ann Arbor’s urban deer population to a more sustainable level — by sustainable, I mean a deer abundance that permits natural forest regeneration — this will have an immediate positive impact on our natural areas,” Dick said. “The herd reduction will help to stave the spread of ticks that carry diseases such as Lyme disease. Black-legged ticks and Lyme disease have recently been documented in Washtenaw County.”

Despite the city saying the deer cull is necessary, the implementation of this program has been a controversial topic in the community for many years.

Among those against the cull is LSA senior Aaron Brodkey, president of the Michigan Animal Respect Society. He told The Daily earlier this year that he felt it was wrong for humans to intervene in nature.  

“Personally, I just think it’s maybe wrong or rash to make this decision,” Brodkey said in January. “I feel like we’re taking it into our own hands and playing God in this position and saying, ‘Hey, we need to massacre 100 deer for who knows what reason?’”