BY COLIN MACDOUGALL
Ann Arbor parks are reopened, but controversy continues over the deer cull that closed 14 parks during the winter months. Population concerns are what drove Ann Arbor’s city council to make the decision on the cull. The cull was implemented back in August of 2015 and has been approved for four years.
The city looked to cull 100 deer in that two month period, but only 63 deer were actually culled. Of the $90,000 budgeted for the cull, the city only used $35,000 toward the United States Department of Agriculture’s sharpshooters. Many protesters and concerned citizens participated in city council meetings looking to bring the cull to a halt.
Sabra Briere, an Ann Arbor city councilwoman, said before the cull and the protests there were several complaints from residents she calls “impact statements” that said how much they were being bothered by the deer.
After approving the cull, many impact statements flooded city council – many stating how bad of an idea a deer cull is for the city of Ann Arbor. Working in public office for many years, Briere explained that the public tends to only react when something is not being done, or when something they don’t want is being done. She says some people reacted to the deer with fear of their children being hurt; whereas others reacted with sadness for the deers being killed.
“You cannot trivialize what someone’s emotions are going to be like…It’s hard to weigh through all of the that, and figure out what to do,” Briere said. “You can alert drivers where there is a problem with deer, create a feeding ban, or allow taller fences to be built. Also, you can educate the public on how to behave around deer.”
Carly Slank, Washtenaw Community College writing center tutor and EMU anthropology student, feels that there needs to be a greater understanding of what culling is.
“I think that there needs to be a greater understanding of what culling is, because people generally associate animals being killed and they don’t like that,” Slank said. “It tends to be more of an emotional response than people taking an objective look at the situation, and realizing that you know there are other sides of the story.”
While Slank isn’t vehemently opposed to the cull, she’s more concerned that people aren’t informed to the other environmental issues at hand.
“It should be thoroughly investigated by the environmental agency and people who are responsible about those things,” Slank said. “I think that it’s important that the general public kind of respects those people’s professional opinion and maybe does their own research before damning them for killing deer.”
WCC photography instructor Terry Abrams, however, founded Friends of Ann Arbor Wildlife and Nature, an organization whose mission is to “educate and engage the community” about effective non-lethal solutions to living with urban wildlife. Abrams first got involved with the cull late last summer.
Abrams points out other concerns the group has with the cull, including that the parks may have been closed during the hours of 4 p.m. – 7 a.m., but the public didn’t always follow the ordinance.
Tanya Hilgendorf, the president of the Huron Valley Humane Society, also has been working with Abrams to stop the cull. HVHS does not believe that Ann Arbor has a deer population problem.
“We will continue to provide education on the most effective, affordable, legal, safe, humane ways of addressing human-deer conflicts,” Hilgendorf said.
Although the cull still is on schedule for next winter. Abrams and Hilgendorf continue to try and overturn city council’s ruling. Engaging the community and encouraging their members to participate in the political process is the only way that an issue like this can be changed.
“FAAWN has created a petition designed to show the city council how many people are opposed to the continuing of the cull,” Abrams said.
Both Briere and Hilgendorf explained how a cull is a short term solution for managing deer population. Both believe that contraception is a better method of dealing with the deer population. The deer will replenish the environment in only a few years. However, contraception of the herd can help with managing the population over a longer period of time.
The city of Ann Arbor launched an online survey. The city is looking now to its residents evaluate their interactions and attitudes towards the deer, as well as their attitudes toward the city’s deer management program.