Community residents speak out on deer overpopulation


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With the slow but steady increase of deer in Isabella County, Mount Pleasant is predicted to have another deer culling in 2016.

City Planner Nancy Ridley, said that the City Commission will request funds for the culling to be placed on the 2016 City Operating Budget. 

"The budget will not be approved until late fall," Ridley said. "By December, assuming they approve doing the culling, they would do it early 2016."

According to the Isabella County Deer Management Unit, Mount Pleasant has been challenged with an urban deer problem the past five years. 

"About five or four years ago management grew concerned about the overpopulated deer because it affected the urban areas," said Cordelia Kohrman, a Mount Pleasant resident. "There is no form of population control with the deer right now, and there needs to be. The deer are very large in number with no competitors to manage the population."

Kohrman said she is concerned with the overpopulation of deer because she has two dogs that are at risk for lyme disease, which is carried by ticks feeding on the deer. On March 27 Kohrman voiced her concerns in a letter she sent to the Mount Pleasant City Commission. 

The state has 1.75 million deer and Isabella County has about 1,000 deer herd, according to the Michigan Deer Crash Coalition. 

Bruce Barlow, a wildlife biologist with the Department of Natural Resources in Isabella County, said the DNR looks at two main collections of data when monitoring deer population: car-deer collisions and crop damage complaints . 

"For Isabella County, in 2014, it has been a steady and slow increase in the deer population," Barlow said. "We look at the number of deer/vehicle collisions as a minimum. I think there is actually a very high number of collisions--they just don’t get reported. For that reason, we look at the number recorded by the state as just a fraction of actual collisions."

President of the Southwest Neighborhood Association, Tom Moffit, said residents in his neighborhood have complained a lot of about the increase of deer in their yards. 

"We saw the increase of deer this spring and early summer," Moffit said. "These deer are eating bushes and flowers they don't usually eat, which indicates there isn't enough food for all of them right now. This needs to be brought to the attention of the city because there are undeniably more deer now."

Moffit said the city needs to perform a deer culling every year to manage the population. 

"Keeping it down year by year makes sure there won't be another influx in population like this," Moffit said. 

 Kohrman's letter was the first official letter sent to the city about managing the deer population this year, said City Commissioner Kathleen Ling. 

"I am assuming there will be a deer culling this year. We received the letter and our response was make it a budget item for the department of public safety," Ling said. "Each year they look at the number of deer to see if the population has grown or not. The issue is tentatively included in the 2016 City Operating Budget."

If a deer culling is included in the 2016 budget, the Department of Public Safety contacts the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the local Department of Natural Resources. 

"We've done deer culling several different times, the last one being in 2013," said Director of Public Safety Officer Jeff Browne. "We contact the DNR and apply for a deer culling permit. Once the permit is approved we coordinate times and dates with the USDA, who sends in wildlife experts to conduct the culling." 

Browne said all deer culling have and will take place early in the year during the winter. 
"We do it in the winter to ensure the community is safe," Browne said. "In the summer, people are outside and enjoying the weather. We don't want to take that away from them."

The deer culling has not been mentioned to the Department of Pubic Safety yet. Browne said they will not apply for a permit until the culling is on the city operating budget, which will be released in the fall. 

In 2009, The Morning Sun reported Mount Pleasant OK'd a deer herd culling agreement with the USDA for three years. From 2010 to 2013, there were more than 30 deer removed from the city. 

The DNR only permits a deer herd culling if it has merit, Barlow said. The culling must be justified and the deer must be a nuisance to the community. 

"The DNR oversees how the cull progresses," Barlow said. "After the culling, wildlife services finishes and reports the number of deer removed. That number has never been very high. They’ve also never met their goal of how many they want removed."

Receiving complaints is also part of the permit process. Barlow said although the DNR doesn't get many complaints directly, they initiate the permit process by being reported to the city.

The DNR encourages hunters to get antler-less hunting licenses. This can be purchased where hunting licenses are issued. 

"We encourage hunters to get them and utilize them," Barlow said. "They can do this by hunting antler-less deer, which brings down the population, and harvest them and feed their family with the meat they’ve acquired."

If hunters get a combo hunting license, they don’t need to get a separate license for antler-less hunting because they can hunt with a bow and arrow. 

  

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