ORGANIZATION: Washtenaw Citizens for Ecological Balance


Ann Arbor, MI Mar. 14, 2017–The Community Deer Advisor team, a partnership of Cornell University and The Nature Conservancy, recently praised the City of Ann Arbor and a local group, Washtenaw Citizens for Ecological Balance (WC4EB), for being “exemplary” as the team looked around the nation for community-based deer management initiatives.

Dr. Meredith Cornett, a Nature Conservancy scientist and collaborator on,wrote to WC4EB about Ann Arbor’s deer management program:

“The City of Ann Arbor stands out as ”exemplary in large part because of the degree of citizen engagement in the process and also because of its ongoing commitment to evaluation.”

Cornett added:

“We are very interested in developing Ann Arbor as a “full blown” community example with a greater level of detail.”

Cornett praised WC4EB’s website as“very informative,” adding “In fact, some of the communities in our map database were leads that we tracked down through wc4eb. Thank you for this great resource!” She requested permission to link from the Deer Advisor’s site. Now each website links to the other’s.

The local group’s website now features Facts about Deer and Their Management — Ann Arbor 2017, which summarizes the science of deer and their impact on ecological balance and links to the research.

WC4EB came together over two years ago to review and discuss deer biology and management, aiming to bring vetted information to the public through a website. The group includes landscape architects, naturalists, information professionals, and long time volunteers interested in supporting ecological balance. It is neither affiliated with, nor accepts funding from, any other group or organization.

Cornell University’s research on deer management is nationally recognized. The Nature Conservancy and Cornell University have launched Community Deer Advisoras a free online resource for communities seeking information about managing overabundant deer populations.

Response to HSHV article in Bridge

Tanya Hilgendorf has everything backwards.

Ann Arbor’s process was not “Shoot First” but a very slow and reluctant slog to the conclusion that only lethal methods would reduce an overabundant deer population.

Ann Arbor’s year-long study of the problem and the scientific literature on the subject did not reveal that lethal deer management methods don’t work and nonlethal ones do, but exactly the opposite.

The question of public safety, rather than being irrelevant to Ann Arbor’s deer discussion was very much part of the process due to fears by drivers of deer-vehicle collisions and by the advance of Lyme disease from the Lake Michigan shore toward Washtenaw County.

The decision to have sharpshooters thin the herd was not justified by a “green scare” valuing a few plants more than deer, but was a move to protect entire ecosystems of woodlands and prairies from a single species, deer, whose numbers were becoming destructive because herd size is no longer controlled by natural predators such as wolves and cougars.

Deer are not increasingly visible in cities because we have eliminated their habitats or chased them away from hunters. They are a growing presence, and nuisance, because our suburban and urban “edge” habitat is excellent for them and they reproduce very quickly in no-hunting areas.

The use of safe urban and parkland culls to control a deer population where hunting is prohibited is not somehow in a different ethical universe from recreational hunting. In Michigan, where hunters harvest over 300,000 deer each year with state encouragement, using professional sharpshooters to remove 100 deer has no reason at all to cause such focused moral outrage.

Tanya Hilgendorf’s other “facts” are wrong. The budget is not $140,000 per year. Ann Arbor does not have only 168 deer and the helicopter count was never represented as an accurate census. USDA sharpshooters in Michigan are not cruel destroyers of predators who need target practice and obtain job security by killing members of a prey species in their downtime. The parks of Ann Arbor, always closed at night anyway, will not be rendered unsafe and unusable because of closures of some of the parks in Ward 1 and 2 during winter evenings.

Lastly, the “tearing apart community trust and cohesion,” to the extent that it has occurred, is primarily the result of the aggressively disseminated misrepresentations by animal rights advocates, not the City of Ann Arbor’s reasoned and deliberate decision making process..

City of Ann Arbor FAQ on Deer Management

4. What does the deer management program not include?
The City of Ann Arbor wants to note specifically that the Deer Management Program:
• Will not include culling more than 100 deer during the winter of 2016.
• Will not include culling deer on private property.
• Will not include allowing the discharge of firearms by hunters, residents or visitors at any time within city limits.

Read more.

Deer Count, Helicopter survey

The MDNR does not have a recommended deer density in urban areas. Rather, we ask local elected officials to determine which level to manage their deer; either based on observed biological impacts to forests or natural areas, or social tolerances, which are generally met sooner in an urban setting. This allows them options in evaluating input and determining whether deer are having an unacceptable impact amongst residents in the community. This is generally done through one or a combination of several methods: monitoring deer-vehicle collisions, tracking resident complaints, surveying residents, habitat or regeneration impacts to forest/nature preserves, etc. If the elected officials deem that deer are a problem in their community, we are happy to work with them and provide recommendations to alleviate these conflicts. Typically, if conflicts are occurring at unacceptable levels across a broad expanse of the city, which limits the effectiveness of deer exclusion, lethal measures are typically recommended.

The helicopter survey should not be considered a census or indicator of herd density. The reason is that this is simply a count that occurs at one moment in time, and the estimate of how many deer were not seen is unknown. Without an effective estimate of how many deer were missed on the flyover, the count alone has little value. If this survey is repeated every year in the same manner, then Ann Arbor would be able to track changes in the deer population, and this in turn can be related back to management actions or strategies. So, the count that was conducted previously does have value, but only when it is included as a series of data points collected over time.

Chad Stewart

Deer, Elk, and Moose Management Specialist

Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Video of Nov. 5 Ann Arbor City Council meeting

Public hearing on moratorium to permit weapons use on public lands for the deer culls:
52:38 – 3:25:09

Discussion and vote on resolution for a moratorium to permit weapons use in public lands
3:49:49 – 4:27:19

Discussion and vote on resolution to authorize USDA APHIS Wildlife Services deer cull contract
4:27:20 – 4:34:20

Follow up on message from

To follow up on my message on, I think even the advocacy biologists at the national humane society would agree with my assertion about the futility of the non-lethal deer management approaches, though you would have to press them to admit it.

This article on the deer culling controversy in Bloomington, published in Sept 2014, is revealing. ” When a member of the audience asserted that PZP was not effective, Griffin admitted that PZP has never been used in an open system like Griffy Lake.” Stephanie Boyles Griffin is the “senior director of innovative wildlife management and services for the Humane Society” and was subsequently invited to Ann Arbor to discuss the non-lethal options. The associated headline from on August 12, 2015 read “Humane Society concludes deer fertility control is feasible in Ann Arbor” and appeared in my mailbox as a news flash five days before the A2 council was expected to make a decision on whether to conduct the cull.

It is pretty clear that proposals for further studies are a delaying tactic. I cannot really even imagine the logistics of an experiment to test the efficacy of non-lethal methods. Would there be a control study with an undisturbed deer herd, and another in which culling was employed? It is an experimental design that the HSHV would be opposed to. And it would cost well over $100k if you wanted to involve U-M researchers. Of course, it is unlikely that any U-M researcher would take on the project because it is so easy to predict the outcome.

I am disappointed that a noble institution such as the HSHV has been taken over by such dogmatic leaders (pun intended) that have polarized our community over this issue. If the council is interested in more fact-checking from the ecological perspective I’d be happy to engage some of my colleagues on the topic as well.

best regards

Chris Dick
Director, University of Michigan Herbarium
Director, ES George Reserve
Associate Professor and Curator

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
University of Michigan

Update from Ann Arbor City Council

On Thursday, November 5, 2015, City Council approved two resolutions for implementation of the deer management plan in Ann Arbor.

1. Resolution to Impose a Temporary Moratorium on Enforcement of the Prohibition Regarding the Possession and Discharge of Weapons in Public Places

. Passage of this resolution; suspends the restriction in City Code Chapter 115, Weapons and Explosives, thereby allowing the City, by and through its proposed agent, the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services USDA-APHIS, to conduct a cull on City properties in the winter of 2016.

2. Resolution Authorizing Cooperative Service Agreement Between the City of Ann Arbor and the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services (USDA-APHIS) in the amount of $35,000.

Learn more

Deer Downtown

From an email:

This should not be happening, not downtown, not one block from City Hall. We have a deer problem, and it cannot be ignored.

Buck at Division and AnnBig bucks like this one (look at that rack!!!) are aggressive if cornered, and our backyard is a confining space for this large animal. I was startled on my way out this morning, and captured a shaky phone photo before he took off down East Ann Street.

Please keep the cull on the agenda for this winter!

What Do We Do About the Deer?

For the full article, with links, visit Local In Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor’s burgeoning deer population has become a problem that our community will be discussing and arguing over for quite a while. This page has a record of our posts and some resources on the issue.
Local In Ann Arbor posts

Oh, Deer! Ann Arbor’s Herd Problem December 3, 2014

Oh, Deer – Will Ann Arbor Find A Solution? December 15, 2014

Oh, Deer – Managing the Public December 17, 2014

Oh, Deer – The Survey January 31, 2015

Deer and the Community Conversation February 16, 2015

Deer and the Numbers Explosion February 24, 2015

Deer and the Vacuum Effect Fable March 8, 2015

Deer and the Web of Life March 26, 2015

Deer and the Flowers of the Earth May 31, 2015

Deer and the Population Problem August 4, 2015
Useful Resources:

Deer Management Project is the City of Ann Arbor web page where reports and announcements are available.

May, 2015: Here is the staff report Deer Management Recommendations which includes analysis of the survey and of possible methods to address deer overabundance in Ann Arbor without the lengthy appendices included in the version on the city page.

August, 2015: Here is the official City of Ann Arbor press release outlining the deer management program as passed by City Council 8-1 on August 17, 2015.

Washtenaw Citizens for Ecological Balance is a continuously updated website that has both local news and many resources, including studies and what other communities have done to address deer overpopulation.

Here is the informative flyer that WC4EB distributed at the February 5, 2015 public meeting. (Click on the hyperlink to download a pdf of the flyer.) The flyer is a broad outline of the issue and includes the WC4EB proposals for what the City of Ann Arbor should do to address the problem.

NEW: WC4EB produced this report, A COMMUNITY-ENDORSED DEER MANAGEMENT PLAN FOR ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN, which was included in the April 15 City of Ann Arbor report which is available on the City web page. The link here is to the white paper prepared by WC4EB alone.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has the responsibility to manage the state’s deer population. The major policy driver is the wish to supply a good hunting environment (a good supply of desirable deer). However, other factors are taken into consideration. The state is divided into Deer Management Units (DMU) and fine-tuning is exercised in each of these. The principal tool is issuance of hunting permits. See this page for a map of all DMU in Michigan, with links to reports that explain special circumstances and reasoning. “Antlerless” deer are does and first-year bucks. Extra hunting permits are issued for antlerless deer where control of the deer population has become desirable.

Washtenaw County was DMU 81 for 2014. The Deer Management/Status Overview for DMU 081 contains much information about the county from a deer management viewpoint.

The DNR has wildlife biologists who study and track deer population dynamics. Kristin Bissell is the biologist who oversees DMU 81. Here is an email K. Bissell December 2014 that she sent in response to a question about the use of contraception for deer population management after the December meeting. She mentions that no contraceptive agent has been licensed for use in Michigan. Also, any such experiment would involve extensive monitoring and data collection. Finally, it would not reduce the deer population.

In addition, if the goal involves reducing the deer population, simply applying contraceptives will not accomplish this. Contraceptives may only address fecundity rates of deer, and would have to be effective on a sufficient number of deer for a sufficient amount of time until sources of mortality reduced the population to the desired size.

Deer Management History in Michigan is a useful historical overview showing how deer populations have fluctuated with different management policies, often with conflicting aims (good hunting vs. environmental protection and herd health).

Lyme Disease is caused by a bacterium carried by deer ticks. It has serious chronic health consequences if not caught early. We reviewed this in a recent post. This Deer, ticks and Lyme disease fact sheet has a comprehensive overview of the relationship between Lyme disease and deer density.

In the local media

Damn Arbor blog: Oh Deer December 10, 2014

Ann Arbor Chronicle:

County Expands Natural Area Preservation March 8, 2014

Ann Arbor Acts on Deer Problem May 5, 2014

Ann Arbor OKs $20K to create Deer Plan August 18, 2014

Ann Arbor News:

Summary list of articles

Ann Arbor Observer:

Our Deer are Mostly Ann Arborites February 2015

The Advocacy Controversy

A recent article in the Ann Arbor News discussed the controversy over the campaign conducted by the Humane Society of Huron Valley against the decision by Ann Arbor’s City Council to conduct a lethal cull of deer this winter.

Here are the two letters that are quoted in the article.

The letter criticizing the campaign is from local attorney Thomas Wieder, who has been involved in many community and political issues for decades.

The other letter is the response from Tanya Hilgendorf, the Executive Director of the HSHV.