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Deer cull decision needs better data

Tribune Staff • Dec 23, 2016 at 1:00 PM

The City of Grand Haven has deemed the number of deer within city limits high enough to necessitate a deer cull.

There’s only one problem — city officials admit they have no idea how many deer live in and around Grand Haven.

That seems like a poor approach to a very sensitive topic.

Near the conclusion of Monday’s City Council meeting, Councilman Mike Fritz — who voted against the deer cull — began questioning the city’s plans, asking how many deer would be killed.

The answer? “As many as we can get.”

Further discussion made it clear that the city does not have a solid grasp on deer numbers in the city. In fact, Mayor Geri McCaleb went so far as to say that, at this point, counting deer would simply be viewed as a delay.

Perhaps a delay wouldn’t be such a bad thing. That way — formal or informal — a count could be conducted to determine how many deer are in the city, and how many need to be culled to get numbers to within an acceptable range.

Many of the statistics given several weeks ago, when the idea of the deer cull was first floated at a council meeting, were countywide numbers. For example, eight cases of human Lyme disease were reported in Ottawa County, but we don’t know if a single one of those cases was in Grand Haven.

The city said it has received five complaints about deer this year. Five complaints in a city of about 10,000 people doesn’t seem like enough to set alarm bells ringing.

We’re not against a deer cull. We realize that there are times when wildlife needs to be managed, especially when that wildlife has changed its natural habits and adapted to living in close proximity to people.

However, before putting our support behind a deer cull, we would like to see more compelling statistics that convince us that there is in fact a problem with too many deer in Grand Haven.

Otherwise, this decision comes across as hasty.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Mark Brooky. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.

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