Deer cull set for University of Michigan-Dearborn campus

DEARBORN, MI – Sharpshooters with silencers will begin conducting a deer cull this weekend, Feb. 23-24, in a 300-acre Environmental Study Area on the University of Michigan-Dearborn campus, citing concerns about elevated tick populations, an unsustainable deer population and other ongoing environmental damage. 

The cull aims to reduce the current white-tailed deer herd population in the area from 70 to between 20 and 30, according to the university. Based on the size of the Environmental Study Area, UM-Dearborn is opting to keep the population approximately three times higher than the recommended size of a sustainable deer herd population by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.  

UM-Dearborn also cited possible health risks to the campus community and visitors due to elevated tick populations, damage to biodiversity in the study area, damage to native tree regeneration and the spread of invasive plant species among the problems experienced in the area. 

UM-Dearborn Spokesman Ken Kettenbeil said the cull is part of an ongoing effort to preserve the nature in the area. The university conducted a cull in 2015, he said, which had a great impact on the regeneration of plant life. 

“We’re viewing this as a long-term deer management program in order to maintain the viability of the area and keep it in its natural state,” Kettenbeil said. 

Ann Arbor deer cull falls short of goal, protesters listed among reasons

The university has a legal agreement with Wayne County that calls for the university to preserve the natural area – both university and county property – and develop interpretative programs. It previously culled 34 deer on campus in 2015. After consulting with the MDNR, continuing a regularly scheduled deer cull was determined to be the best solution, the university noted. 

Kettenbeil said while tick populations are always a concern, the university didn’t observe any deer ticks during the first cull in 2015. A staff member notified UM-Dearborn he found a tick on his body in the study area in November, which was sent to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. 

“We followed every procedure we could to keep it alive, but the tick died en route to the state,” Kettenbeil said. “The state did confirm it was an adult, female blacklegged deer tick, but we couldn’t determine whether it was carrying Lyme disease. We’re not characterizing the deer ticks as a major health concern, but they are part of the equation.” 

Rose City-based Berg’s Animal & Bug Control will conduct the cull, with the total cost of the cull estimated at $20,000, Kettenbeil said. UM-Dearborn received a permit from the MDNR for the cull, which typically will take place between 4 to 10 p.m. during UM-Dearborn’s spring break. 

Venison harvested in the cull will be donated to local food banks. The 2015 deer cull resulted in 780 pounds of meat that was used to provide meals for the hungry via Gleaners Community Food Bank. A similar amount of meat was donated to Capuchin Soup Kitchen, according to UM-Dearborn. 

The UM-Dearborn Police Department will coordinate all aspects relating to securing the cull area and ensuring campus safety. Coordination with the Dearborn Police Department and Wayne County Sheriffs Department are included in the safety plan.  

Those close to UM’s Ann Arbor campus are familiar with deer culling efforts in recent years. The cull, which was carried out by professional sharpshooters hired by the city of Ann Arbor during the month of January, had a goal of killing up to 250 deer in designated areas including city parks, nature areas, university properties and some private properties with owner permission. 

A total of 115 deer in Ann Arbor were killed during the city’s third-annual deer cull, which came to an end on Wednesday, Jan. 31.

Members of a group known as FAAWN, standing for 
Friends of Ann Arbor Wildlife in Nature, actively protested the cull, showing up near shooting zones during culling hours.

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