From the Daily: Deer cull is a necessary cost

Thursday, January 19, 2017 - 5:44pm

Last November, the University of Michigan announced it would participate in Ann Arbor’s deer cull efforts, a program first approved by Ann Arbor City Council by an 8-1 vote in August 2015. From Jan. 30 to Feb. 13, the city of Ann Arbor will begin the second iteration of the program, which will include a non-lethal method of sterilization in addition to the lethal methods used in last year’s cull to help control the city’s growing deer population. The University has authorized the cull to take place at certain campus locations, such as Nichols Arboretum and possibly on North Campus, and will contribute 15 percent of the total cost of the cull. Though controversial, the newest plan for the deer cull is a necessary and efficient response to deer overpopulation. The Michigan Daily’s Editorial Board supports both the deer cull and the University’s land and fiscal contributions to it.

Deer overpopulation poses unique threats to Ann Arbor's residents and environment. Many city residents have incurred substantial property damage, experienced aggression from deer and reported vehicle near-misses and collisions from rapid deer overpopulation. By removing the deer’s natural predators, like wolves and bears, deer populations go unchecked, wreaking havoc on the city’s natural biodiversity. Overpopulation of deer poses threats to Ann Arbor’s ecosystem, because they prey on native plants, eliminating habitats and food sources for other animals.

New efforts for this year are more conscious of citizens’ ethical concerns about last year’s deer removal tactics. What’s more, the city has instituted safer, more humane methods of curbing Ann Arbor’s deer population. This year’s cull will include non-lethal sterilization, a noteworthy attempt to compromise with constituents' concerns. Research has shown ovarectomies — surgical procedures that remove the ovaries completely — to be the most effective, least invasive and quickest method for destroying a deer population's reproductive capabilities. Furthermore, the city will track migration patterns and survival rates of the deer sterilized in this cull so more ethical culling methods may be implemented in the future.

Furthermore, Ann Arbor City Council addressed issues of public safety in considering the parameters of this year’s cull. The upcoming cull will take place in fewer, more distinct places and away from areas of traffic like children’s routes to school, which was a concern for some constituents last year.

Additionally, parts of this year’s cull will be conducted on University property, a necessity given the way University property is integrated into the framework of the city. Without access to certain campus areas, the cull would not be as effective. The University is also being cautious in opening its land in order to protect the student body; the cull on North Campus, for example, will take place over Spring Break when there is less student traffic.

The University will contribute 15 percent of the total cost of the cull, proportional to the area of property the University owns in Wards 1 and 2. The total expenses will not exceed $25,000. While it may be argued these funds should be used for services that help students more directly, the University’s involvement in the culling measures can help prevent deer overpopulation from becoming a problem in neighborhoods where students live, such as South Campus. In 2015, students made up about 37 percent of the city’s population. Considering the University’s contribution to the city’s population, this 15 percent “service fee” is negligible, especially as the University is exempt from paying property taxes.

The deer cull will greatly benefit the entire Ann Arbor community, including the University community, by reducing additional damage to local ecology and personal property. While killing and sterilizing deer is certainly not ideal, it is a necessary measure of population control that has been carefully planned out to ensure the safety of our residents and the efficacy and ethics of maintaining our environment.