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Communities grapple with how to control deer

Feb 24, 2015

Credit user Noel Zia Lee / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A recent community meeting in Ann Arbor illustrates a challenge urban areas throughout Michigan are facing: deer. Specifically, deer that are a road hazard or destroy parks and gardens.

Ann Arborites heard details of lethal or non-lethal ways to control the deer population.

A biologist from the city of Rochester Hills described his city's non-lethal program, relying on better road signage and much more community education.

A group called Washtenaw Citizens for Ecological Balance made its case for hiring sharpshooters to take out 250 deer next winter, with more to be killed in subsequent years.

Wildlife biologist with the Michigan DNR Kristin Bissell says the first thing communities need to consider is what they define as success for the situation, whether it be fewer car accidents, property damage or more plant growth in parks and gardens.

Jackson decided to use sharpshooters to control deer in Ella Sharp Park.

"Their first year it took about three days to shoot and harvest 80 deer, and then this year it took over a month for them to get three. So you see the difference in densities, and you see the difference in complaints and you actually see the difference in acceptance for the program," Bissell says.

Rochester Hills, on the other hand, decided to use a non-lethal method. It reduced cover along roads and opened up roads to increase visibility.

Each method reflects a different priority. The non-lethal method has no effect on the population of deer in the area, and instead focuses on helping drivers avoid collisions with deer.

"It comes down to what does the community think the problem really is and what can they live with," Bissell says.