I speak for the trilliums that have disappeared from Bird Woods because a large mammal with no predator has killed them by walking and sleeping on them. I speak for the warblers whose nesting bushes have disappeared because they have been eaten by a large mammal who has no predators. I speak for the oak and beech forests that will never grow because the saplings have been chewed away and eaten by a large mammal who has no predators. I speak for the deer exclosures at the Leslie Science Center and the UM Botanical Gardens that provide visual evidence that the web of life relies on native plants and trees, flora, and fauna in order to assure sustainability. I speak for the Washtenaw Citizens for Ecological Balance, wc4eb.org, a growing group of concerned University faculty, business and professional people, homeowners, conservation-minded citizens, Master Gardeners, and community volunteers for organizations such as NAP, the Huron Valley Watershed Council, and the Stewardship Network who have read and contributed to our website’s deer management plans from around Michigan and the US, its scientific articles, newspaper accounts, and links for contacting public officials.
I also speak for immediate action because the problem is more than doubling annually as does give birth to more than one fawn every year. The recommended deer density of 12.5 deer per square mile already is exceeded in this county by approximately 12.5 times, and this county has one of the highest number of car-deer accidents in the entire state, averaging 3 per day, $3,000 per accident.
The non-lethal ways to control deer have been tried and have failed. Some pin a last hope on the Humane Society of the U.S.’s proposal for deer contraception or sterilization, but the Society, rightly lauded for its work with domesticated pet animals, does not possess significant expertise as to non-domesticated animals and is over several years away from possibly supplying even arguable efficacy for adopting such an approach. It began a small, 5 year study just this year. The study’s methodology has not been approved by Michigan’s DNR, the study uses a drug that has not been approved by the FDA, the drug costs $800-1,000 per deer to make and deliver, and, in its first year, it has resulted in sterilization of but one deer, and this after she had mated. She has since produced a fawn. Although there is dim prospect for success, the Humane Society’s efforts affirm a central point: we have a deer over-population problem and we need to deal with it.
Finally, I speak for people who support this Council’s resolution to hear public comment and who urge Ann Arbor to join the growing number of U.S. cities, townships, and park districts, as close as Jackson, MI, Meridian Township, and the Huron MetroParks, in crafting a plan that stops needless disease, needless vehicle-deer accidents, and needless denuding of our parks and landscapes.
For further information, please see wc4eb.org. We will offer an educational tour of local sites in mid-September and will soon add an FAQ to our active and growing website.