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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.
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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.
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. This professional, safe and highly managed removal of a portion of the deer population is conducted in designated park areas to address deer overpopulation in the East Lansing community, which has resulted in vehicle/deer accidents, public health concerns, damage to landscaping and a disruption to the ecological balance of natural areas. While vehicle/deer accidents have trended down slightly over the past two years in East Lansing, Michigan is the second leading state for vehicle/deer accidents in the United States and statewide vehicle/deer accidents are trending up. In East Lansing, there have been an average of 24 vehicle/deer accidents per year over the past three years.
A first round of deer removal took place in East Lansing in winter 2021, with a second round of deer removal taking place in winter 2022 and a third round planned for winter 2023. For more detailed history, education and resident resources, visit https://www.cityofeastlansing.com/231/Deer-Management.
All venison from the removal operations is 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. The City is pleased to be able to offer this relief to local families. The processing of the venison has been generously donated by nonprofit Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger (MSAH): https://www.sportsmenagainsthunger.org/. Community members can learn more about MSAH here.
Signs are 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 are also sent out to residents with properties that border affected parks notifying them of the work. This MDNR-permitted activity is conducted in a controlled environment via professionals using professional tools. There is simply nothing more important than safety and there is no pressure on these professionals to try to remove more deer than can 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 are 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 in several communities 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 are not hunting. The City has 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 has been and will continue to be collected and considered. The City intends to measure the outcomes of this removal by continuing to survey 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.
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