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What our city has done... and is doing

Click here to see the resolution our City passed.


Spring 2014 - Following resident complaints, Ann Arbor City Council directed City Administrator Steve Powers to develop deer management information with the assistance of community partners and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division.


Aug. 14, 2014 - Powers provided a Deer Management Options Report, outlining the need to develop a community-endorsed deer management plan. City Council appropriated $20,000 for a plan.


Dec. 10, 2014 - Feb. 5, 2015 - Held two public discussion meetings and an online public survey


The survey had several significant flaws:


1. Sample bias. 537 people responded to the survey; 72 of them were not from Ann Arbor. This suggests the survey was taken by less than 0.4% of Ann Arbor's population. Also, because the survey was optional (and not widely publicized), there was self-selection bias; only those who knew about the survey/cared about the issue took the survey; it did not represent those "in the middle" or those who did not know about the survey. Furthermore, residents were disproportionately represented from the first and second wards; the majority of them were in favor of using lethal methods to cull deer; the majority of the residents from the third, fourth and fifth wards responded they were not in favor of using lethal methods


2. Question bias. For instance, three questions began with a pro-cull leading statement: "Research concludes that lethal removal measures are most effective for managing a deer population. Please indicate your level of support for... [firearm hunting, bow hunting, sharpshooters]."


3. Answer bias. For instance, three options were given to the question "Please indicate your level of support for using lethal methods such as hunting or sharpshooting to reduce the deer population." Respondents could only select: Strongly support, Moderately support, or Do not support. Unbiased options would have been: Strongly support, Moderately support, Moderately do not support, Strongly do not support.


Yet this flawed survey is cited as reasons for action in the final bill.


The public discussion meetings can be seen here; many of the same pro-cull advocates speak at every one.


Feb. 10, 2015 - Conducted an aerial survey; counted 116 deer, including 32 on the border or outside the city.
March 6, 2015 - Conducted 2nd aerial survey; counted 168 deer, including 92 on the border or outside the city. The majority were in Wards 1 and 2. 


The city conducted two flyovers because "the first included all areas of the city, except the downtown near hospitals and the Arboretum, while the second survey included the entire city."


As Ann Arbor is 27.83 square miles, the final survey indicates Ann Arbor has 6 deer per square mile. On a worksheet for establishing deer population, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) suggests that Washtenaw County have 24-28 deer per square mile, with fewer in cities like Ann Arbor. The MDNR suggested that Rochester Hills have a density of 15-17 deer per square mile. 


The final bill mentions these aerial surveys, but just to say that the majority of deer were found in Wards 1 & 2. There is no mention of deer density or that we have "too many deer," as was originally assumed by those who brought this issue forward. Why would we use lethal methods if we do not have "too many deer"?



April 16, 2015 - Held third public meeting to present flyover and survey results.


May 7, 2015 - Published "Recommendations for Deer Management in Ann Arbor," calling for a deer cull.


At the end of this document (p.1702-1737) is a 35-page report from the "Washtenaw Citizens for Ecological Balance," the group that began the deer cull issue discussion with City Council and advocated for a cull. There are no reports from counter points on non-lethal methods included in this report.



July 13, 2015 - Work session with presentation on fertility control methods from HSUS.


The City's recommendations for a cull were published two months prior to any expert discussion of fertility control.


August 17, 2015 - Held a final public meeting. Voted 8-1 in favor of using lethal methods first to kill deer in Ann Arbor starting this winter, and to consider non-lethal methods later. (2nd Ward Council Members Jane Lumm and Kirk Westphal voted to only use lethal methods and not consider any non-lethal methods.) See the bill here. Approved ordinance that bans the feeding of deer in Ann Arbor.


There are problems with the public meeting and with the decision.


The problem with doing a cull before doing non-lethal methods (versus the other way around) is, as the National Wildlife Research Center in Fort Collins, a cull will kill off the "easy ones" -- the ones who would be caught for fertility control. By doing a cull first, you're greatly limiting the effects of what could happen with birth control methods.


At this final public hearing,


  • There was no mention of all the people present who said they enjoyed the deer, didn’t mind the deer, address the problem themselves, or said they saw no problem whatsoever.

  • There was no mention of the man who spoke and said he did not want the deer in his yard culled, particularly the three-legged deer whose survival skills and ability to raise her fawn leave him in awe.

  • There was no mention of Rochester Hills (who briefly tried a cull and then stopped because of its failure) who uses education and prevention strategies, is fully satisfied with existing strategy and remains a great example for Ann Arbor. 

  • There was no mention that Rochester Hills has not seen “exponential growth” and “200 deer in one yard," but has had a stable number without ANY population management. 

  • There was no mention of Jackson County who have culled for nearly a decade and still have some of the most dangerous roads for deer/car collisions in the state

  • There was no mention of the community’s fears over sharpshooters, or as a speaker noted, that a bullet from a sharpshooter that misses its target can travel over two miles. 

  • There was no mention of the white deer “accidentally shot” in the Kensington Park culling.

  • There was no mention of threats to pets who might get loose.  (And one of the leaders of the pro-cull group said, if your dog gets out accidentally and gets hit, that’s your fault for “breaking the law.")

  • There was no mention of the illegality of a cull, that they will need to violate state law designed for public safety

  • There was no mention of the aerial survey numbers of just 168 deer in and surrounding Ann Arbor, which is a significantly lower deer density than the Michigan DNR recommends. Why did we pay for two flyovers if we were not going to heed the results for anything?

  • There was no mention of the clear contradiction in efforts of Council working to approve new housing developments, bringing in hundreds of new residents, in an already identified over-crowded area; devouring more green space (and deer habitat)-- while, at the same time, approving a cull because "there are too many deer."  One speaker implored us to look at “real ecological imbalance” and the impact of human population growth on the entire ecosystem. Several Council members justified their pro-cull vote based upon their understanding of the negative impact deer have on general ecology... yet they are fine with bulldozers leveling green space for new development.




  • Council members claimed they had only two options: culling or fertility control. In reality, there are many strategies in between -- though, admittedly, they take thought, effort, and respect for animal life. 

  • Two claimed they were in part voting for the cull because they are “not vegetarians."  We are still scratching our heads over that. This isn’t about hunting for meat.  What you eat has nothing do with how you manage conflict with wildlife in your community.  We have hundreds of people who call us for help with wildlife -- compassionate people who want to see them handled humanely.  Presumably, they are not all vegetarians.  And not being a vegetarian does not take away your right to protest the slaughter of innocent animals in your community. 

  • They claimed deer fertility control is too experimental and too costly.  The cost of sterilization is nearly equal to that of a cull and has been done successfully on a variety of species for a century. Chemical contraception is still considered experimental because it does not have full regulatory approval, but chemical contraceptiion has also been done for many years on a variety of wild animals including feral dogs, wild horses, and yes-- deer.  

  • They claimed sterilization is inhumane, while killing is not.  As an organization that sterilizes about 7000 animals a year and does everything possible to save animal lives, I guess we (and nearly everyone else) have got it all backwards. 

  • They claimed this is still about Lyme disease and car collisions despite the clear facts to the contrary.  And, if they were actually concerned about road safety, why have they done nothing to help educate drivers or improve road signage in ways that have proven highly effective in other communities?  Seems like that should have been done ASAP, whether or not they voted for a cull.   

  • They claimed (along with the pro-cull group) that culling is the only proven method, and the vacuum effect does not exist (despite clear evidence that a partially culled population bounces back through increased births and migration from other areas). Yet they have budgeted to cull for multiple years.  If culling is so effective, why will it be needed in subsequent years?

  • They claimed, along with the pro-cull group who call our deer “rats with hooves," that their existence here is unnatural, and killing them is for their own good.

  • Council Member Lumm was eager to allocate $90,000 of taxpayer money to kill animals that are a nuisance to some of her constituents, but suggested if any humane methods are considered in the future, they should be paid for by HSHV donors. The City, with its $334 million budget, can’t pay for anything beyond killing? 

  • They failed to explain the numbers. Currently Ann Arbor spends $400 per deer on deer carcass pick-up. But they plan to cull 100 deer in the first year for about $26,000 ($400 x 100 = $40,000)?  The cull company said their bottom-line cost of shooting, not removing, the deer was about $235-325 per deer (adding up to another $32,500).  So unless we are planning to leave shot and killed animals in our parks and neighborhoods, they are miscalculating or are attempting to deceive the public on the affordability of this option.

  • Council Member Kunselman continues to believe deer that can sometimes be seen during the day are crazed and in need of a mercy killing. (No true wildlife expert agrees with this opinion.)   

  • Council Member Warpehoski said he is acting out of respect for nature (before telling a personal story of trying to take a “selfie” with a small fawn), but neither he, nor any other member, ever considered the tragic implications for fawns whose mothers are shot.

  • They passed a feeding ban (without ever admitting that it is human action that helps create conflicts with deer) that apparently includes bird feeders that spill onto the ground.  And since Ann Arbor still has no Animal Control Officer, they said the feeding ban will be enforced by the Ann Arbor Police Department.  Is having Ann Arbor police monitor your bird feeder truly the best use of taxpayer dollars?


November 5, 2015 - Public hearing on moratorium on prohibition of possesssion of and discharging of firearms in public places. In two separate 10-1 votes, City Council approved temporarily lifting ordinance restrictions on firing guns in parks, and an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, also known as USDA-APHIS, to carry out the cull this winter at a cost of up to $35,000.

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