Image via MI DNR​

With whitetail numbers continuing to rise and the city contemplating bringing in hired sharpshooters at a cost of some $30,000, members of the local humane society are lobbying Ann Arbor to let them handle the problem instead by using non-lethal methods.

The problem

Ann Arbor residents in the past three years have seen a steady increase in deer sign, especially in Ward 1 and 2. This includes reports that they have experienced an increase of deer in their neighborhoods, reports of garden plants and landscape damaged by deer, and, most troubling, deer to vehicle accidents. A flyover of the city in March reported no less than 168 deer sighted.

The city's solution

As reported by MLive, the city has made public a 1700-page report following helicopter flyovers of the city, three public meetings, and an open comment period. What it boiled down to was a recommendation for a series of annual culls, to be completed in January and February so there would be no orphaned fawns, with the meat going to the needy as per state DNR guidelines.

The City further recommends that a private contractor be brought in who would only discharge their firearms in designated areas and only fire "from above into the ground." As noted by DNR, no safety incidents have been reported from communities that have gone with private firms to reduce deer herds.

However, the contractor doesn't come cheap.

"Based on preliminary discussions with a sharpshooting contractor, the annual costs for a deer cull will range between $25,000 and $35,000," notes the study.

This has others offering alternative plans.

Enter the Humane Society

The Humane Society of Huron Valley, a not-for-profit, tax-exempt public charity located in Ann Arbor, are opposed to harvesting the nuisance animals.

"Ann Arbor city officials are recommending a deer cull. Jackson has been conducting deer culls for 8 years, yet remains one of the worst cities in the state for car-deer crashes, according to the Michigan State police," reads a post on the group's social media. "There are more humane -- and more effective methods for deer population management."

These more humane options include sterilization or other fertility control programs in which female deer are trapped, sterilized, and returned to the project area.

The only problem with that, as noted by the City's study, is that its both expensive ($1,000 per deer), and it just isn't effective.

"The planning process studied and researched several non-lethal deer management methods, including sterilization, birth control, and a non-lethal program based on one adopted by the City of Rochester Hills," noted the study, all of which were rejected in turn.

"Although deer-vehicle collisions [in Rochester Hills] have been reduced from the peak, in the last year they have risen from 140 to 171. In addition, the deer flyover counts from the last two years are the highest in the last ten years," noted the study as to the effectiveness of the model program there. "As the Rochester Hills program has not reduced the deer population, and will not reduce the Ann Arbor deer population because a feeding ban will have no impact (according to MDNR), a like program for Ann Arbor should not be considered to address our resident concerns."

The Meridian option

However, all of the above could be handled differently. As noted before by Michigan Sportsman, just 50-miles to the West of Ann Arbor is Meridian Charter Township. There, the city has a similar long-running problem with nuisance deer. The Meridian answer: use volunteer bow hunters to compete for a set number of deer tags inside township-controlled areas.

The program, which started in 2011, came about after city residents demanded something be done with the overabundance of deer encroaching into town. As a response, the township began a novel program in which bow hunters who applied and were approved could harvest animals in pre-designated parcels during a special season for which they had to buy a permit for a token fee. The land open included some 380 acres, much of which is township-owned. The hunter's first deer could be kept but any additional animals had to be donated to area food banks.

Last season an amazing 150 animals were harvested and some 1,500 pounds of venison, enough to serve over 7,500 meals to the needy were donated to the Okemos and Haslett Community Church Food Banks in 2014.

No public outlay for private sharpshooters. No questionable sterilization program.

The Ann Arbor City Council has not made a final decision on what shape their deer program will take.