Public Safety Director Jeff Hawke told council Monday night that several people are putting out corn and other feed for the deer herd on Harbor Island. He said his officers have observed this and then noticed people from their cars watching the deer dine.
“We have some — I’m sure well-intentioned — pretty aggressive feeding out there,” Hawke said.
Currently, Grand Haven officers can issue tickets for littering or nuisance behavior to deer feeders on public land. But Hawke said “the cleanest way” to stop the feeding is to enact a specific ordinance that outlaws it anywhere in the city.
Councilman Josh Brugger and Mayor Geri McCaleb both told Hawke that they would support whatever tool the public safety department needs to halt the feeding of deer and other wildlife on public land such as Harbor Island.
Brugger noted that deer feeding is counterproductive to the city’s plans to cull the urban herd, which has been approved by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources but postponed until the fall.
“To feed them and then shoot them doesn’t make sense,” he said.
Councilman Mike Fritz said feeding a deer herd may already be prohibited by state law, and is a good way to spread chronic wasting disease.
“This is what the DNR does not want you to do,” he said.
Hawke presented council with the current state DNR rules, which defines “baiting vs. feeding” in Public Act 451 of 1994. It says that baiting is for hunting purposes on public and private lands, and is allowed during the state’s hunting season from Sept. 15 to Jan. 1.
Feeding is primarily for “recreational viewing” and is permitted in Michigan on private property up to 100 yards from a person’s home, Hawke said.
“Several municipalities in Michigan have adopted ordinances that prohibit the feeding of deer and wildlife, including Muskegon, Norton Shores, Ann Arbor and Rochester Hills,” Hawke said.
Most of those four cities have ordinances that prohibit “intentional feeding on private or public land.” Language ranges from a single line for Muskegon to an elaborate ordinance in Ann Arbor, which has made the news for its ongoing efforts to culling its urban deer herd.
Hawke said another way to attack the problem is to post signs on public land that specifically spell out that feeding deer is prohibited, but that wouldn’t solve the private property issue.
Councilman Bob Monetza agreed that feeding deer is counterproductive, but he balked at enacting an ordinance that would prohibit a resident from doing it on his or her own private property.
Since Monday night’s discussion was during a work session, no official decision was made. A proposed ordinance is likely to be brought before council for consideration at a future meeting.
“Whatever is the best way to enforce this is definitely what we should do,” McCaleb said.