From Nextdoor: Why Ann Arbor Needs Deer Management

Those of you opposing effective deer management are doing a major disservice to our city. Here’s some background: No hunting. In Michigan 370,000 deer are harvested and consumed each year by hunters. That keeps the deer population stable at about 1.75 million-2 million deer. The problem in cities down here in southern Michigan is that hunting is illegal and predators have been eliminated, hence the need for culls when deer become overabundant. Deer biology. Without hunters or predators (no cougars any more, no wolves) University of Michigan research shows that deer populations double in two years. If we had 400 deer in the City in November we will have more than 560 by summer. There were an estimated 300 deer in Wards 1 and 2 before this month’s culls. That estimate is based on the helicopter counts and deer reproduction rates. Some history. Deer had almost been wiped out, like the American bison, by commercial exploitation. Sport hunting provided a way to control the deer population in a way that it could grow, which it has from a very small base. Deer like suburban “edge habitat” with open land bordering woods and thrive here better than in the deep woods. Edge habitat plus no hunting is deer paradise. Deer were not seen in Ann Arbor 50 years ago. They began to be very visible in certain areas of Ann Arbor’s First and Second wards in the early 2000’s, including in the University’s Arb and North Campus. Deer are killing Ann Arbor’s woodlands The City of Ann Arbor has documented this in the studies of Jacqueline Courteau which measure deer browse pressure on the forest understory in Ann Arbor’s parks. If tree seedlings mostly get eaten by deer eventually there will be no trees; the forest can’t regenerate. Forest understory also provides a rich eco-system for many species, including pollinators, and it is being damaged by the deer. In many North American woodlands improperly managed deer have turned the understory into undesirable forest floors of invasive species such as Japanese barberry or stiltgrass. We need to avoid that in Ann Arbor, where residents value our parks very highly and where much public and volunteer effort has been expended in removing invasive plant species. There’s no doubt that culls can reduce a deer population and that reducing the deer population can help damaged ecosystems recover. Ongoing deer culls in Huron Metroparks have reduced the deer population to a level where desired vegetation is reappearing, so you don’t have to go far to see this. Car crashes. Ann Arbor had a high of 90 deer-vehicle crashes in the year before the culls began to control the population and still has 56 in the last reported year, 2017. Attempts to reduce an intolerable level of deer-vehicle accidents through public education and better signage have failed in Rochester Hills, which consistently has the highest number of deer-vehicle collisions in Michigan due to its “no cull” policy. Lyme disease Lyme is now as of very recently confirmed by the Washtenaw County Health Department to be transmitted by ticks in Washtenaw County. Deer are an essential part of the life cycle of the deer tick (black-legged tick) which transmits Lyme to humans, typically in the tick’s nymph phase. The adult female ticks need blood from a deer to lay eggs and make more ticks. Keeping the deer population at a low density is our best shot at preventing Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses from becoming endemic in Ann Arbor. Failure to control deer brings Lyme disease. A dramatic example is Staten Island, in New York City. There were 24 deer there 10 years ago. Now there are 2000 and several million dollars spent on buck vasectomies have not adequately reduced the deer population and have not prevented Lyme disease from becoming endemic there since the deer arrived and a real health threat to children playing outside and adults enjoying the out of doors. Landscaping and gardens. Ann Arbor home owners value our landscaping, our trees and shrubs, evergreen and deciduous, and our flowering plants, perennials and annuals. Selecting only deer resistant species would greatly degrade the diversity of our plantings and substitute non-native and invasive plants for desirable native ones. Property owners are highly constrained by City ordinances on how we can protect our plantings since we cannot hunt or hire private nuisance animal control. Fences are also severely restricted and fences conforming to the local ordinance are not always high enough to be effective deer deterrents. Deer repellents are only somewhat effective and expensive and labor-intensive. Deterring deer from eating one property owner’s plants also just sends the hungry deer into a neighbor’s yard. Deer management is the best solution for a city to pursue. Lethal and Nonlethal. Ann Arbor uses the recommended method of deer herd control for public parks, golf courses, arboretums etc. which is a rifle cull over bait by sharpshooters, typically shooting downward in planned shooting lanes that prevent the rounds from traveling beyond the target and using safety ammunition that prevents ricocheting. The venison is distributed, as is legally required, to food banks. Parks and private parcels where culls occur are selected because they are deer population hotspots and are locations where culls can safely be conducted. Bow hunting was considered but discouraged by the Department of Natural Resources. Transportation of deer to another area is illegal. The City also considered and rejected the use of volunteer sport hunters for the cull, desiring professional sharpshooters under an experienced contractor’s supervision. Ann Arbor is also doing a pilot study in surgical sterilization in two neighborhoods in Ward 2 where does are captured by darting and then their ovaries are removed. The rationale for the nonlethal method is in part that lethal culls would not be permitted or accepted in some neighborhood locations. Any fertility control method acts too slowly and costs too much to be preferred for widespread use in deer herd reduction. Ovary removal is really the only feasible fertility control method at this time, despite decades of development and testing of non-hormonal deer contraceptives. Michigan does not permit the use of deer contraceptives and last month the Michigan Legislature and outgoing Gov. Snyder stopped until 2022 any additional surgical sterilization.

Documentation for my facts can be found on the Washtenaw Citizens for Ecological Balance site and at on Ann Arbor’s deer management pages at

Washtenaw Citizens for Ecological Balance – We speak for the environment, both for ourselves and wildlifeWe speak for the environment, both for ourselves and wildlifeWC4EB.ORG

From “The Living Landscape,” Rick Darke and Doug Tallamy:

5 Oak planted today (or not eaten by deer) will sequester 216,000 lbs of carbon dioxide in 55 years, they will sequester 426,000 pounds in 75 years.  Older trees are far more effective at this.  

The stewardship and sustainability of the Ann Arbor’s entire urban forest needs to be on the radar of the Environmental Commission, then the City for quite some time, via an outreach program.  

The City’s Natural Features Master Plan, adopted in 2004, call for exactly that.   It should be noted that the typical city property in the US (Ann Arbor does better) uses only 10% of its available land area for tree biomass that they could be.

What happens when cities refuse to manage their deer herds effectively?

Case 2. Rochester Hills, Michigan

Rochester Hills was presented numerous times at Ann Arbor’s deer forums five years ago as the poster child for effective non-lethal deer management. Rochester Hills had had a significant deer-vehicle collision problem, and residents had been complaining about deer damage to plants. Lethal deer management was defeated by an angry group of animal defenders who maintained that educating residents about avoiding deer accidents, adding (movable) deer crossing signage, advising home owners to use deer repellents and “deer resistant” plants would take care of the apparent deer overabundance problems somehow, ignoring the basic fact of deer biology that in the absence of hunters or predators – or disease – a deer population doubles about every two years..

When the Rochester Hills deer population plunged temporarily due to EHD, a deer disease, traffic accidents dipped and the anti-cull advocates loudly proclaimed their non-lethal program a huge success at reducing deer crashes. Fast forward to 2018 and we find that as a collision-prevention program the education and signage measures seem to have been singularly ineffective. Rochester Hills, as it often has been, is at the top of the Michigan list for deer-vehicle collisions, the number one municipality in the state.

Furthermore, according to Rochester Hills naturalist Lance DeVoe in his talk in Ann Arbor during one of the deer forums, their woodland understory

in their public lands is now mostly invasive Japanese barberry, which will prevent the trees and the whole forest ecology from regenerating. The invasive barberry is “deer resistant,” and therefore survives where everything else dies, but by replacing native species it is hostile to many plant and animal species, including pollinators, that would be sheltered in the woods.

Here’s an excerpt from a recent interview with Rochester Hills naturalist Lance DeVoe, a Rochester Hills city employee:
By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published December 5, 2018
“Deer, by far, have become the most difficult wildlife problem in our city,” DeVoe said during the presentation. “I keep thinking that there has to be a correction at some point, because our city is not what I would call an ideal white-tailed deer habitat, and it shouldn’t be able to keep as many deer as we have here healthy, but unfortunately, that correction hasn’t happened yet.”

Anytime there’s an overabundance of deer in a suburban area, the risk for deer-related car crashes increases. Although Rochester Hills saw a slight dip in deer-related car crashes last year, dropping from 176 in 2016 to 161 in 2017, DeVoe said the city still leads the state in deer-related car accidents.

“There’s car-deer accidents everywhere in the city. It’s all over,” he said. “And we know that there’s a significant number of car-deer accidents that don’t get reported.”

Tienken Road has historically led the city’s roads as far as the number of deer-related car accidents, followed by Avon and Adams roads, and Walton Boulevard. If a deer dies on a road governed by the Road Commission for Oakland County, DeVoe said, the animal is picked up by the county; if it dies on a city road, it’s picked up by the city’s Department of Public Services; if it dies on public property, it’s picked up by the city’s Natural Resources Department to be delivered to the DPS.

“There are deer being dropped off at our Department of Public Services virtually every day,” DeVoe explained.

An overabundance of deer can also wreak havoc in parks and neighborhoods by reducing vegetation, particularly native plants, thus reducing food and shelter for other animals and also damaging landscaping.

Repellents — such as Liquid Fence, Deer Away — can help discourage deer from entering property, according to DeVoe.

“Some of them do work if you’re persistent and diligent enough with applying them after it rains and after a heavy dew,” he said. “You can deter (deer) to some extent. It just takes a lot of effort.”

DeVoe also suggests that people scare deer away when they come to their yard and removing the vegetation they like to eat from the landscaping. He said a list of plants that deer seldom eat is available on the city’s website.

“We’re not trying to encourage more deer, and feeding them helps to keep that population abnormally high,” he said.

What happens when cities refuse to manage deer herds effectively?

Case 1. Staten Island, New York City

Deer swim across the Arthur Kill channel from New Jersey, start to reproduce, begin to be noticed.
In 2008 the deer population of Staten Island was estimated at just 24. Now it’s soared to around 2,000, according to the NYC Parks Department. Oct 12, 2018
Traffic accidents, vegetation destruction, black-legged (“deer”) ticks, and previously-absent Lyme disease follow.

The NYC government, with Mayor de Blasio known to be beholden to animal rights groups, refuses to use lethal methods recommended by wildlife experts. NYC spends millions of dollars on a highly questionable buck vasectomy program which at best would reduce the deer population slowly over time and seems to be failing to do so. Yes, White Buffalo (who else would dare to approach the tender parts of antler-bearing bucks?) is the contractor.

Borough President of Staten Island James Oddo – Thoughts on Lyme Disease and Ticks August, 2018

Lyme disease surge: Why our deer problem really matters (local commentary from Staten Island) April, 2018

The birds and the bees are bucking NYC’s deer-control program New York Post April 3, 2018

Rising deer population colliding with Staten Island Drivers Oct 10 2018

Limits to free speech

Even Justice Scalia —that strict constructionist — said that there are limits to free speech. Allowing these anti-cull people to use the pretext of the First Amendment to break the law seems like an abrogation of the Council’s responsibility—both legally and fiscally. They have a legal duty to allow their contract with White Buffalo to be fulfilled and not waste taxpayer money. Is Ann Arbor going to be one of those towns/cities which had a cull, then gave into to protests, and then 10 years later were overwhelmed with Lyme Disease, DVCs, the natural areas filled with barberry—and stiltgrass?

Act 451, NREPA: the Law

Act 451 of 1994
324.40112 Obstructing or interfering in lawful taking of animals or fish; prohibited conduct;
petition; injunction; violation as misdemeanor; penalties; section inapplicable to peace
Sec. 40112. (1) An individual shall not obstruct or interfere in the lawful taking of animals or fish by
another individual.
(2) An individual violates this section when the individual intentionally or knowingly does any of the
(a) Drives or disturbs animals or fish for the purpose of disrupting a lawful taking.
(b) Blocks, impedes, or harasses another individual who is engaged in the process of lawfully taking an
animal or fish.
(c) Uses a natural or artificial visual, aural, olfactory, gustatory, or physical stimulus or an unmanned
vehicle or unmanned device that uses aerodynamic forces to achieve flight or that operates on the surface of
the water or underwater, to affect animal or fish behavior in order to hinder or prevent the lawful taking of an
animal or a fish.
(d) Erects barriers to deny ingress or egress to areas where the lawful taking of animals or fish may occur.
This subdivision does not apply to an individual who erects barriers to prevent trespassing on his or her
(e) Interjects himself or herself into the line of fire of an individual lawfully taking wildlife.
(f) Affects the condition or placement of personal or public property intended for use in the lawful taking
of an animal or a fish in order to impair the usefulness of the property or prevent the use of the property.
(g) Enters or remains upon private lands without the permission of the owner or the owner’s agent, for the
purpose of violating this section.
(h) Engages in any other act or behavior for the purpose of violating this section.
(3) Upon petition of an aggrieved person or an individual who reasonably may be aggrieved by a violation
of this section, a court of competent jurisdiction, upon a showing that an individual was engaged in and
threatens to continue to engage in illegal conduct under this section, may enjoin that conduct.
(4) An individual who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not
more than 93 days or a fine of not less than $500.00 or more than $1,000.00, or both, and the costs of
prosecution. An individual who violates this section a second or subsequent time is guilty of a misdemeanor
punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine of not less than $1,000.00 or more than
$2,500.00, or both, and the costs of prosecution. In addition to the penalties provided for in this subsection,
any permit or license issued by the department authorizing the individual to take animals or fish shall be
revoked. A prosecution under this section does not preclude prosecution or other action under any other
criminal or civil statute.
(5) This section does not apply to a peace officer while the peace officer performs his or her lawful duties.
History: Add. 1995, Act 57, Imd. Eff. May 24, 1995;¾Am. 1996, Act 316, Eff. July 1, 1996;¾Am. 2015, Act 12, Eff. July 13, 2015

Cull protesters are wasting our money

The deer cull protesters are wasting our taxpayer money.

Per MLive, they are showing up at the cull sites and “When they see sharpshooters, they yell, “Stop the shoot! Save the deer!” …. FAAWN member Lisa Abrams said they’re exercising their right to peacefully protest.”

What they are doing is actually illegal. Sec. 40112 of Michigan law says, “An individual shall not obstruct or interfere in the lawful taking of animals or fish by another individual.” The city has a legal permit to remove the deer. The protesters’ intent is to scare off the deer, or annoy the sharpshooters, or both. Deer aren’t going to walk into a site with a lot of unusual noise. That means that for the sharpshooters to do the job they were hired to do, they need to work more hours and charge the city more. Or they don’t get the target number of deer. A small group of protesters seek to undo the will of Council and undermine the deer management program. This is not how democracy works. Hopefully, the law can be enforced. A few fines will make the point – it’s $500 for the first offense and $1000 for the second offense. Here is the relevant statute:

From NextDoor


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.