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Deer Management Background

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Deer Management 2016 Program 

In August 2015, City Council approved the establishment of Ann Arbor's deer management program, which included culling deer on city property in Wards 1 and 2. The city contracted with the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services (USDA-APHIS), whose marksmen used suppressed firearms to cull deer from 14 designated City of Ann Arbor parks and nature areas between Jan. 2 and March 1, 2016. The city posted signs in multiple languages at impacted park and nature area entrances to notify visitors of the early closures; and residents living near the designated parks or nature areas were informed of early closures via postcard. 

Background

During the spring of 2014, City Council directed Ann Arbor's City Administrator to develop deer management information with the assistance of community partners and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division (MDNR). The directive from Council arose as a result of numerous resident reports of deer damaging landscaping and natural areas as well as concerns regarding vehicle/deer collisions and deer-borne diseases. 

Timeline

On Aug. 14, 2014, the City Administrator provided to City Council the Deer Management Options Report, which outlined the need to develop a community-endorsed deer management plan built upon community input and management options approved by the MDNR Wildlife Division, the public agency responsible for managing Michigan's deer.  On August 17, 2015, City Council approved the Resolution to Establish a Deer Management Program within the City of Ann Arbor for the next four years, including culls on City of Ann Arbor property beginning in the winter of 2016. In addition, City Council directed city staff to continue to explore the viability of a deer fertility control program with the Humane Society of the United States.  The resolution stated:     

"RESOLVED, That in addition to the measures identified in Approach A above, that the City will work with local stakeholders, MDNR, willing institutions of higher education, and/or the Humane Society of the United States to design and, if practical and cost-effective, implement a doe sterilization and/or contraceptive program in areas where a deer cull is impermissible, unsafe, or ineffective, beginning in winter FY2017."  

Ann Arbor's deer management program aims to decrease the deer population in Ann Arbor in order to reduce deer-human negative interactions and support biological diversity in natural areas by not placing one species above another. 

On November 5, 2015, City Council approved two resolutions necessary to implement Ann Arbor's deer management plan:    

1. Resolution to Impose a Temporary Moratorium on Enforcement of the Prohibition Regarding the Possession and Discharge of Weapons in Public Places. Passage of this resolution suspends the restriction in City Code Chapter 115, Weapons and Explosives, thereby allowing the City, by and through its proposed agent, the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services USDA-APHIS, to conduct a cull on City properties in the winter of 2016.  

2. Resolution Authorizing Cooperative Service Agreement Between the City of Ann Arbor and the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services (USDA-APHIS) in the amount of $35,000

Contracting with the USDA-APHIS was recommended by city staff for the initial culling program year due to the following reasons. 

Exceptional safety standards: USDA-APHIS has trained sharpshooters on staff, who also serve as instructors to train others. In fact, a number of organizations model their culling safety program on USDA-APHIS's safety program, such as the Federal Aviation Administration. They are an extremely professional and safe organization with the latest technologies available for carrying out a safe and effective cull, such as night-vision and thermal-imaging scopes.

Experience: The USDA-APHIS is experienced in performing safe culls in urban environments. They currently are performing culls in Meridian Township under contract with Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) to reduce the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease. USDA-APHIS staff have performed culls in several Michigan communities, including Big Rapids, Mount Pleasant, Grand Haven, Manistee, and Barton Hills. They also assisted the Huron Clinton Metro Parks in culling in their first year. 

Cost effective: As a governmental agency, their financial goals are not to make a profit, but simply to cover their costs. They are also self-insured. All USDA-APHIS sharpshooters are USDA-APHIS employees, and most are biologists or specialists and are given rigorous special safety and training on conducting the culls. 

Experienced: USDA-APHIS is experienced in developing work plans that will meet Ann Arbor's deer management program needs. In addition, these work plans must comply with National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act and other applicable federal statutes. The USDA-APHIS will provide the City with an after-action report and any other information requested or required by the MDNR as part of the issued permit. This information will allow the City to better estimate the conditions and necessary budget for future culls if private sharpshooters are used in successive years. 

USDA and city staff worked together to identify potential cull sites. The following criteria was considered: 

  • Public safety
  • Size and shape of the city-owned property 
  • Terrain 
  • Surrounding land-use and housing density
  • Proximity to neighbors
  • Ease of access
  • Attractiveness of the location for deer

The approved 2016 deer management program utilized both lethal and nonlethal deer management methods and included: 

  • Obtaining a special MDNR permit for the USDA-APHIS to cull and remove up to 100 deer on City of Ann Arbor property located in Wards 1 and 2 in winter 2016.
  • Per the MDNR special permit, the deer were processed and the venison donated to a local food bank. Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger helped process the venison, which was donated to Food Gatherers.
  • Culls were conducted during the winter of 2016 with suppressed firearms in designated City of Ann Arbor parks and nature areas in Wards 1 and 2 only and public access was restricted during cull operations.
  • The deer cull was performed by highly experienced USDA sharpshooters who are specially trained to conduct culls in urban settings with precision, accuracy and safety as top priorities.
  • Per Council direction, city staff continue to explore a deer fertility control program options.  

Deer Management Program Documents