City Council approves deer cull

Friday, August 28, 2015 - 11:36pm

Ann Arbor’s resident deer population will likely have a rough winter ahead.

The Ann Arbor City Council voted Tuesday to implement a deer cull — a selective reduction of wild animals — to control the city’s swelling deer population.

Council voted 8-1 in favor of hiring sharpshooters to reduce the city’s deer population over the next four years — a decision that was lauded by some residents, but drew criticism from others. This year, the cull aims to knock off 100 animals.

Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor (D) was the sole vote against the cull.

“I fully emphasize and appreciate the concerns with the deer-human interaction,” Taylor said. “At the same time, there are many members of the community whose sense of place in their city will be substantially affected by shooting deer within our borders.”

Jim Kosteva, University director of community relations, said the University’s Office of Government Relations has communicated its willingness to cooperate with the city, but said the city has not formally asked the University to permit any deer cull on their property.

“We are willing to cooperate with the city once they’ve selected a methodology to reduce the deer in the community,” Kosteva said. “However, we also have our own regulations and ordinances that have to be considered.”

Dozens of Ann Arbor residents attended the Tuesday Council meeting to air arguments for or against the cull. Some deemed the deer cull necessary to counteract disruption to the local ecosystem, as well as damage to natural areas, gardens and the habitats of other species.

Those in disagreement said the cull was an excessive and inhumane approach to deer population control. Several groups, such as the Ann Arbor Residents for Non-Lethal Deer Management and the Michigan’s Political Action Committee for Animals, pushed back against the cull and seeking alternative routes to deer population control.

Taylor concluded that the need for a cull was not a community consensus.

The issue first came to the attention of the council more than a year ago when a number of residents expressed concern about the deer population in the city.

The final details have yet to be worked out, and the proposal must be approved by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Taylor said the cull will likely begin in late winter and will be carried out at night by trained shooters, using bait piles to lure the deer in. Shooters will also be obliged to aim for the deer’s head, ensuring a fatal shot.

Success of the program will be regulated through an annual survey to analyze how deer-human interactions have changed in the city. The city will also conduct flyover counts to track deer population fluctuations.

The city has budgeted $90,000 for deer management efforts this year, however that is not all expected to go towards culling.

Another part of the approved resolution provides for further exploration of deer fertility control. Though a deer fertility program is not set in stone for Ann Arbor quite yet, the council voted to research the idea, alongside the DNR and Humane Society of the United States.

“I think it’s important that the city explores and continues to look and see if a fertility program would be practical in the city,” Taylor said.

The final part of the deer population dilemma addressed food supply. The council approved an ordinance that would ban Ann Arbor residents from feeding deer.

If found with edible materials that could be reasonably assumed a food source for deer, persons would receive a written notice. The offense, which is a civil infraction, could result in fines up to $100 each day if there is failure to comply with the written notice.

The ordinance will receive final approval after another reading and public hearing scheduled for Sept. 8.