The “stop the shoot” ad on page 70 of the October Ann Arbor Observer is a concrete example of the misrepresentation of the facts by the “stop the shoot” groups. The Humane Society of Huron Valley has been emailing similar misrepresentations to its mailing list.
Misrepresentation Number 1: “Kill over half of our deer.”
Council Members know from DNR advice that the helicopter count of 168 deer during last winter should not be interpreted as an accurate deer census but can be used to identify the locations where the deer population in Ann Arbor is most dense.
The goal of harvesting 100 deer this coming winter is not intended to “kill over half of our deer” and may quite possibly not be enough to compensate for the increase in deer population due to the births since last winter, even if we did have only 168 deer at that time. Deer double in population every two years without animal predators or human hunting activity.
Based on the “168” figure, does the “Save the Deer Coalition” believe that our 51 deer-vehicle crashes last year actually killed as many as one-third of our deer?. Would that be humane? Would that not point to our deer as an obvious hazard to public health, something indeed to be feared?
The best the City can do in the absence of an accurate and feasible way to do a true deer census is to conduct follow-up aerial surveys, monitor citizen complaints, and track damage to park vegetation as well as to keep track of the public health and safety metrics. These indicators can give the City’s deer managers feedback about how to adjust the cull goals for 2017 and succeeding years. Monitoring such data properly focuses attention on preventing deer damage rather than on specific deer numbers.
Misrepresentation Number 2: “Before the fawns have matured.”
Kristin Bissell of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources explained to the City that the season for DNR-regulated culls under Animal Nuisance permits occurs after the regular hunting season, and is past the point where fawns are dependent on their mothers.
Misrepresentation Number 3: “Endangering children, students, and pets”
DNR rules for animal nuisance removal culls are designed to ensure public safety. The City will protect people and pets by employing professional sharpshooters and using precautions such as predetermined shooting lanes, aiming from elevated positions at downward angles, and using special non-ricochet ammunition. Culls will not be undertaken on private land and will be done in parkland in January-February, possibly at night. There are no documented cases of injuries anywhere at any time on this continent to people or pets due to urban deer management programs operating under cull permissions.
Misrepresentation Number 4: “Inhumane and Inefficient”
Lethal deer management is how we control the deer population in this county, this state and this country. Hunters harvest 5,000 deer in Washtenaw County each year, 350,000 in Michigan, and 6.5 million in the USA under state-encouraged and regulated wildlife management programs. There is no practical and legal-in-Michigan nonlethal alternative for deer herd reduction, let alone a more “efficient” one. Where recreational hunting is not deemed safe, special culls are permitted which have stringent safety procedures for the suburban and urban environments, and it is such culls that the City is planning.
In a state and county where lethal deer management is commonplace, why should Ann Arbor’s deer be “sacred cows,” with privileges to eat anything and defecate anywhere in our City? Clearly culling can reduce and stabilize deer populations.
If shooting deer is inhumane, why don’t the Humane Society of Huron Valley and other “stop the shoot” groups oppose state-regulated recreational hunting? Would the City’s deer management program be humane if it utilized sport hunters in hunting season instead of professional sharpshooters in the DNR’s season for culls?
Misrepresentation Number 5: “Just so some people’s gardens can remained un-touched”
Damage to gardens was never the sole concern of Council over deer overabundance, though residents, given no permitted and effective alternatives, certainly turn to the City to protect their valued landscapes. Council members understood when they voted 8-1 for the deer management program that there is also a serious and growing threat to our public woodlands and prairies from deer overabundance.
Our parks are precious to Ann Arborites. Deer destroy the understory of our natural areas, damaging the species diversity that the City strives to maintain, and harming the viability of the natural ecosystems.
Deer overabundance also presents a threat to public health and safety in the form of vehicle accidents and the looming threat of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. Lyme disease is approaching Ann Arbor from counties to the west. Jackson County for the first time this years shows up on the Lyme map as at risk. Lyme disease needs a deer population to support the deer tick life cycle associated with the bacterial infection. Thinning the herd is a prudent public health measure.
Misrepresentation Number 6: “Ann Arbor Police Monitoring your birdfeeders”
Council Members were quite clear on wording the deer feeding ordinance to exclude fines for feeding birds. This is another “humane” scare tactic and distortion of the truth.