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Over almost a decade, the City of East Lansing (City) has been engaging with residents, researching best practices, talking with other communities and partnering with experts in the field concerning deer management and deer populations in the City. In addition to holding Community Deer Management meetings for resident education and input, the City has surveyed residents, partnered with several agencies (MSU, MDNR and USDA Wildlife Services), tracked deer-vehicle accidents in the City, passed a deer feeding ban, tracked estimated population volumes, tracked incidents of disease (including Lyme disease and Chronic Wasting disease) and maintained a Deer Management webpage that provides residents with education, history and an opportunity to provide feedback. With a current average of more than 40 deer-vehicle accidents per year within the City, the deer population in East Lansing continues to grow, increasing deer-human conflicts. After many years of consideration, the East Lansing City Councilmembers serving in early 2020 weighed public input and ultimately acted at their February 11, 2020 City Council meeting to reduce the deer population in the City by professional, lethal removal. A first round of deer removal took place in winter 2021, with a second round of deer removal taking place in winter 2022. For more detailed history, education and resident resources, visit https://www.cityofeastlansing.com/231/Deer-Management.
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In the winter of 2021 and 2022, the City entered into a Cooperative Services Agreement with USDA Wildlife Services over to conduct professional deer removal operations in East Lansing's parks. USDA Wildlife Services biologists highly trained in the use of firearms removed a total of 144 deer over the two winters from a variety of City parks during intermittent weekday evening/night closures. Parks were closed during the operations and the firearms used had noise suppression, but residents near parks were advised that they may still hear shots.
All venison from the removal operations was donated to the Greater Lansing Food Bank. With an average of 30 pounds of venison recovered per deer removed, this venison donation is of great use to community members served by the food bank. During these difficult times, the City is pleased to be able to offer this relief to local families. The processing of the venison over both winters was generously donated by nonprofit Michigan Sportsman Against Hunger (MSAH): https://www.sportsmenagainsthunger.org/. Community members can learn more about MSAH here.
Operations took place on one to two weekday evenings per week in January 2021 and January 2022. Parks remained open during the day and on the weekends. On the evenings that the operations took place, park closure signs were pulled indicating that the park was closed. The signs on the closures were large, purposefully.
Areas where deer removal took place included Abbot Road Park, the East Lansing Family Aquatic Center/Softball Complex, Harrison Meadows Park, Fine Park (2021 only), White Park, Burcham Par,, Patriarche Park and City-owned property on West Road.
Signs were pre-posted at all affected parks notifying the community of the closures and, during the work, barricades and large closure signs were in place at all known entrances to the parks, including main entries, footpaths, parking lots, trailheads and cut throughs. Letters were also be sent out to residents with properties that border affected parks notifying them of the work. This MDNR-permitted activity was conducted in a controlled environment via professionals using professional tools. There was simply nothing more important than safety and there was no pressure on these professionals to try to remove more deer than could be safely removed. The biologists have spent significant time in East Lansing’s parks, noting the patterns of usage and determining the safest areas for removal. It is important to note that, if people were in the park, USDA staff would not proceed with any removal if safety has been compromised. USDA Wildlife Services – Michigan has conducted these removal operations and have never had a safety incident during deer removal operations, meaning no people or pets have been harmed during a deer removal.
The Michigan law pertains to hunting; however, the USDA Wildlife Services biologists performing this deer removal were not hunting. The City made a purposeful decision in hiring professionals instead of hunters to remove deer, and that decision was made to ensure safety and to ensure that the removal could be conducted in as few evenings as possible, with as little disruption to the community as possible. This was also the method of removal cited by residents in surveys as preferable.
Yes. Meridian Township, East Lansing’s neighboring community, runs a managed hunt to reduce their deer population. Other communities, such as Ann Arbor, Tecumseh, Mt. Pleasant, Jackson, Big Rapids and Freemont, have taken the approach of professional removal via firearms, similar to East Lansing.
Just as the decision to remove deer in winter 2021 and 2022 took many years of community input, research and thoughtful consideration, post-removal input will continue to be collected and considered. The City intends to measure the outcomes of this removal by surveying residents and continuing to monitor deer herds and deer-vehicle accidents so that future decisions can be made. It would not be unusual, based on the experience of other communities, for the City to need to continue to address deer overpopulation in future years.
During the first round of deer removal in January 2021, 65 deer were removed by USDA Wildlife Services from a variety of City parks over two nights: Jan. 12 (32 deer removed) and Jan. 22 (33 deer removed). The breakdown for the two-night total is as follows:
Abbot Road Park – 29Burcham Park- 3Fine Park- 2Harrison Meadows Park- 21White Park- 5Aquatic Center/Softball Complex- 5
While Patriarche Park was also included as a designated park for removal, no deer were observed in Patriarche Park on the removal nights.
During the deer removal operations in January 2022, 79 deer were removed by USDA Wildlife Services from a variety of City parks over four nights, between Jan. 4-26. The breakdown for the four-night total is as follows:
Abbot Road Park – 29Burcham Park- 16Patriarche Park-0Harrison Meadows Park- 16White Park- 8Aquatic Center/Softball Complex- 8City-owned West Road property-2
Monday - Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.