Let the Ann Arbor City Council know that a Deer Cull is NOT the ANSWER!!!
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This Monday, Ann Arbor City Council voted 8-1 in favor of using lethal methods to kill deer in Ann Arbor starting this winter. Many consider this an embarrassment to a town that is affluent in financial, environmental and intellectual resources, calling the "leaders and the best" moniker into question.
Following a deeply flawed study, two questionable aerial flyovers that eventually counted 168 deer (6 deer/square mile ), and a quick "listen" to alternative methods of deer management -- Council members determined that the people want something done and now, that there are too many deer, and that non-lethal methods of deer management aren't worth exploring (and, assumedly, that taxpayers wouldn't be interested in trying humane methods or in being a city that does cutting edge research), so they voted to use taxpayer dollars to pay for sharpshooters to kill 100 deer. This, despite Michigan Department of Natural Resources statements that 15-20 deer/square mile is a healthy herd, and the many serious legal and safety concerns and calls for a humane approach made by nearly 50 constituents that evening alone.
From both scientific and governmental representational standpoints, Monday's meeting was upsetting. But what's worse is that several Council members said that culling is the first and only method they'd want to enact right now.
Even if killing were the ultimate answer, when should it ever be our first course of action?
In case you missed it, below is a run-down of the Council discussion during their vote for a cull. If any one of these points bothers you, as an animal lover or a tax paying citizen, please let Council know.
*There was no mention of all the people present who said they enjoyed the deer, didn't mind the deer, address the problem themselves, or said they saw no problem whatsoever.
*There was no mention of the man who spoke and said he did not want the deer in his yard culled, particularly the three-legged deer whose survival skills and ability to raise her fawn leave him in awe.
*There was no mention of Rochester Hills (who briefly tried a cull and then stopped because of its failure) who uses education and prevention strategies, is fully satisfied with existing strategy and remains a great example for Ann Arbor.
*There was no mention that Rochester Hills has not seen “exponential growth” and “200 deer in one yard," but has had a stable number without ANY population management.
*There was no mention of Jackson County who have culled for nearly a decade and still have some of the most dangerous roads for deer/car collisions in the state.
*There was no mention of the community’s fears over sharpshooters, or as a speaker noted, that a bullet from a sharpshooter that misses its target can travel over two miles.
*There was no mention of the white deer “accidentally shot” in the Kensington Park culling.
*There was no mention of threats to pets who might get loose. (And one of the leaders of the pro-cull group said, if your dog gets out accidentally and gets hit, that’s your fault for “breaking the law.")
*There was no mention of the illegality of a cull, that they will need to violate state law designed for public safety.
*There was no mention of the aerial survey numbers of just 168 deer in and surrounding Ann Arbor, which is a significantly lower deer density than the Michigan DNR recommends. Why did we pay for two flyovers if we were not going to heed the results for anything?
*There was no mention of the clear contradiction in efforts of Council working to approve new housing developments, bringing in hundreds of new residents, in an already identified over-crowded area; devouring more green space (and deer habitat)-- while, at the same time, approving a cull because "there are too many deer." One speaker implored us to look at “real ecological imbalance” and the impact of human population growth on the entire ecosystem. Several Council members justified their pro-cull vote based upon their understanding of the negative impact deer have on general ecology... yet they are fine with bulldozers leveling green space for new development.
*Council members claimed they had only two options: culling or fertility control. In reality, there are many strategies in between -- though, admittedly, they take thought, effort, and respect for animal life.
*Two claimed they were in part voting for the cull because they are “not vegetarians." We are still scratching our heads over that. This isn’t about hunting for meat. What you eat has nothing do with how you manage conflict with wildlife in your community. We have hundreds of people who call us for help with wildlife -- compassionate people who want to see them handled humanely. Presumably, they are not all vegetarians. And not being a vegetarian does not take away your right to protest the slaughter of innocent animals in your community.
*They claimed deer fertility control is too experimental and too costly. The cost of sterilization is nearly equal to that of a cull and has been done successfully on a variety of species for a century. Chemical contraception is still considered experimental because it does not have full regulatory approval, but chemical contraception has also been done for many years on a variety of wild animals including feral dogs, wild horses, and yes-- deer.
*They claimed sterilization is inhumane, while killing is not. As an organization that sterilizes about 7000 animals a year and does everything possible to save animal lives, I guess we (and nearly everyone else) have got it all backwards.
*They claimed this is still about Lyme disease and car collisions despite the clear facts to the contrary. And, if they were actually concerned about road safety, why have they done nothing to help educate drivers or improve road signage in ways that have proven highly effective in other communities? Seems like that should have been done ASAP, whether or not they voted for a cull.
*They claimed (along with the pro-cull group) that culling is the only proven method, and the vacuum effect does not exist (despite clear evidence that a partially culled population bounces back through increased births and migration from other areas). Yet they have budgeted to cull for multiple years, and Council Member Briere, who has been a thoughtfully engaged member, stated that once they start culling, it will need to be done every year. If culling is so effective, why will it be needed in subsequent years?
*They claimed, along with the pro-cull group who call our deer “rats with hooves," that their existence here is unnatural, and killing them is for their own good.
*Council Member Lumm was eager to allocate $90,000 of taxpayer money to kill animals that are a nuisance to some of her constituents, but suggested if any humane methods are considered in the future, they should be paid for by HSHV donors. The City, with its $334 million budget, can’t pay for anything beyond killing?
*They failed to explain the numbers. Currently Ann Arbor spends $400 per deer on deer carcass pick-up. But they plan to cull 100 deer in the first year for about $26,000 ($400 x 100 = $40,000)? The cull company said their bottom-line cost of shooting, not removing, the deer was about $235-325 per deer (adding up to another $32,500). So unless we are planning to leave shot and killed animals in our parks and neighborhoods, they are miscalculating or are attempting to deceive the public on the affordability of this option.
*Council Member Kunselman continues to believe deer that can sometimes be seen during the day are crazed and in need of a mercy killing. (No true wildlife expert agrees with this opinion.)
*Council Member Warpehoski said he is acting out of respect for nature (before telling a personal story of trying to take a “selfie” with a small fawn), but neither he, nor any other member, ever considered the tragic implications for fawns whose mothers are shot.
*They passed a feeding ban (without ever admitting that it is human action that helps create conflicts with deer) that apparently includes bird feeders that spill onto the ground. And since Ann Arbor still has no Animal Control Officer, they said the feeding ban will be enforced by the Ann Arbor Police Department. Is having Ann Arbor police monitor your bird feeder truly the best use of taxpayer dollars?
The bright points? We have a growing number of people who are becoming aware of the cull and speaking out against it, and we have a courageous and smart Mayor -- the lone voice of reason who actually listened to his constituency.
And winter's not here yet. Several of the above Council Members have terms ending in November of this year, let them know this matters to you! If you oppose the cull, please let Council know. Even if you're not an Ann Arbor resident, defenseless animals need all of us to speak for them.
PS. Thanks to the Humane Society of Huron Valley for the above information!
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