The City of East Lansing is arranging another deer cull, and this year it hopes to remove “at least 100” deer in City parks, according to Cathy DeShambo, who was recently promoted to become Director of Parks & Rec for the City.
ELi is hearing from people all over the City who are frustrated with deer in their yards. Those writing in express concerns about property damage, collisions, and deer-borne diseases.
But whether this cull will make a significant difference in these experiences – given the growth and spread of the local deer population even after last year’s cull – remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, some people remain adamantly opposed to killing deer. That includes recently-elected Council member Dana Watson, who used her Council member comment period at this week’s meeting to speak to the issue of deer.
Watson started her remarks on Tuesday night by saying that she had read that deer-car crashes increase when hunters are active. She asked people to take precautions to avoid collisions. (She did not specify the precautions drivers should take.)
Watson also urged people to select plants “to deter” deer, saying she “wanted to encourage everyone to be careful and also [to] check out the City’s website or check out other sources for deer management and to keep the deer away from your properties.”
Responding to a question from Watson, DeShambo said at Tuesday’s meeting that the City’s “Deer Management Survey” is still open and accepting responses from members of the public. (Take it here. Note that if you have taken it in the past, the system will not allow you to take it again.)
After years of debate in East Lansing over the deer, a divided City Council voted in February 2020 in favor of a cull.
Mark Meadows, Jessy Gregg, and Lisa Babcock voted in favor, with Aaron Stephens and Ruth Beier voting against.
In voting against, Beier said, “I can’t be the mayor who votes to kill the deer.” She added, “I also don’t believe that this will work.”
Beier did not think the government cull could stop deer from “in-filling.”
Now, some are questioning whether the killing of deer in City parks is part of what is driving them deep into residential neighborhoods, even as far south as just a few blocks from Grand River Avenue, where houses are relatively close together. It’s not uncommon now to see deer walking down the streets of the Glencairn Neighborhood, for example.
Asked about the plan this year, DeShambo told ELi on Thursday that the City has “entered into a Cooperative Services Agreement with USDA Wildlife Services again this year for removal of deer this winter, same areas as last year, with firearms.”
Last year’s cull took out 65 animals. This year, the City is planning for a bigger cull:
“We are increasing the limit request on our license application to the DNR to at least 100 and intend to conduct the removal for more than two nights to accommodate that increase,” DeShambo told ELi. “We have been discussing additional options with USDA Wildlife Services and MDNR concerning the more challenging areas of the City for removal.”
As of now, it looks unlikely that the matter will be brought back to Council. At least some Council members would probably prefer not to have to vote on this, as the matter sharply divides residents here, not just on the issue of whether killing deer is appropriate but whether the City should be inviting the use of firearms in City parks, even if by professional sharpshooters.
Last January, as ELi reported, Watson reiterated that she is against culls said she is torn on whether it’s a good idea to attempt to reverse the cull approvals.
According to DeShambo, “The City Manager will be making his notification to Council as to the intermittent closing of parks for the removal of deer, the same as was announced last year. The exact date of the [City Council] meeting for which this will be announced has not yet been determined.”
Correction, 10 am: Due to an internal ELi communication error, the original summary for this article said that “Watson spoke against killing deer at the most recent City Council meeting.” She has repeatedly spoken against killing deer in the past, but this week spoke only about collisions and property concerns. We added references to previous reporting on this issue so readers can read more. We also added a line about the City’s survey to note that if you’ve taken it before, the system won’t let you take it again.
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