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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 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. For more detailed history, education and resident resources, visit https://www.cityofeastlansing.com/231/Deer-Management.
The City has entered into a Cooperative Services Agreement with USDA Wildlife Services to conduct the removal. USDA Wildlife Services biologists highly trained in the use of firearms (guns) will be removing up to 50 deer* this winter from a variety of City parks during intermittent weekday evening/night closures. The firearms being used have noise suppression, but residents near parks may still hear shots.
*Please note that while the City’s initial MDNR permit was for up to 50 deer, an addendum was issued by the MDNR on Jan. 20 revising the permit for up to 70 deer. This change was requested based on the level of deer activity in the parks on the first night of removal.
All venison from this removal is being donated to the Greater Lansing Food Bank. With an average of 30 pounds of venison recovered per deer removed, this venison donation will be 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 has been generously donated by nonprofit Michigan Sportsman Against Hunger (MSAH): https://www.sportsmenagainsthunger.org/. Community members can learn more about MSAH here.
The City’s MDNR permit for this activity is valid from January 2, 2021-March 1, 2021. This will be an operation that takes place on one to two weekday evenings per week, and likely will be completed before the full amount of time allowed by the permit. The one to two nights per week will vary based on weather conditions and other USDA commitments. Parks will be open on the weekends. On the evenings that the operation is taking place, the park closures will be pulled by 6 p.m. indicating that the park is closed from 6 p.m.-7 a.m. to allow for the removal operation. The signs on the closures are large, purposefully.
The parks where deer removal is taking place include Abbot Road Park, the East Lansing Family Aquatic Center/Softball Complex, Harrison Meadows Park, Henry Fine Park, White Park, Burcham Park and Patriarche Park. On an evening when USDA Wildlife Services Biologists are in East Lansing removing deer, all of the listed parks will be closed and they will be working in all parks throughout the evening.
Signs were pre-posted at all affected parks notifying the community of the closures and, during the work, barricades and large closure signs are in place at all known entrances to the parks, including main entries, footpaths, parking lots, trailheads and cut throughs. Letters were also sent out to residents with properties that border affected parks notifying them of the work. This MDNR-permitted activity is being 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 will not proceed with any removal if safety has been compromised. The Michigan Division of USDA Wildlife Services conducting this removal 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 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 this winter took many years of community input, research and thoughtful consideration, post removal input will 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. As this is the first population reduction that the City has attempted, 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.
In total, 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 – 29
Burcham Park- 3
Fine Park- 2
Harrison Meadows Park- 21
White Park- 5
Aquatic 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.