Council approved a $6,460 contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to conduct the cull on behalf of the city by a 3-2 vote Monday night.
Councilmen Bob Monetza and Mike Fritz voted against the agreement.
The decision follows action taken by City Council in March when it was decided to forgo any deer cull activity as permitted by a previously issued Michigan Department of Natural Resources permit. Council voted to reapply to the state to kill up to 30 deer during the state’s designated deer hunting season in the fall.
At the end of August, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources issued a new Damage and Nuisance Control Permit based on the March request. The permit, valid from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, allows the city to shoot as many as 25 deer within city limits, and authorizes locations including the airport, Mulligan's Hollow, Harbor Island and other city-controlled properties.
“It’s not something that is pleasant and not something that I enjoy doing, but it is something that is necessary,” Mayor Geri McCaleb said. “We are out of balance here.”
McCaleb said she hears from many who say there are too many deer in their yards, eating their plants and creating a nuisance.
“People that live within the city should be able to grow what they want, freely,” she said. “When people say they have herds of 10 deer standing in their yard, that, to me, is unacceptable.”
Fritz said he was still upset with the city’s decision to move forward with a deer cull based on information that wasn’t exclusively from Grand Haven and that didn’t follow the city’s 2008 Urban Deer Management Plan.
“It wouldn’t be a hard pill to swallow if we did this like we said we would do,” he said.
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Fritz said that if the city is going to set rules and regulations, it needs to follow them the way they’re written.
“I feel like we’ve failed the community by not following what we did,” he said. “I’m so sorry.”
Monetza also expressed concern about the city using limited data to make a decision on a cull, and also said he wants the city to be more transparent about when the culls would take place this fall.
“We need to tell people, and we need to tell them in advance,” he said. “I think it is important people know what is going on when and where, and with sufficient notice.”
According to City Manager Pat McGinnis, it isn’t likely that the city will reveal to the public when and where the culls take place, citing safety concerns. McGinnis noted that the public safety department would, however, create safe perimeters for areas where deer culls were occurring to ensure public safety.
“They wouldn’t take one single shot if there was a possibility that someone could get hit by a bullet,” he said.
Members of the public who spoke about the deer cull were critical of the city’s plan.
Grand Haven resident and City Council candidate Andy Cawthon said he is concerned about how the city doesn’t follow its Urban Deer Management Plan from 2008 when making its decision.
“Right now, you don’t appear to have any good baseline of how many deer there are,” he said. “Data that’s 15-20 years old doesn't seem like a good baseline for making sound decisions.”
Grand Haven resident Mary Stephens urged the city to reach out to the Humane Society of the United States to take up the organization on its offer for deer contraception services.
“They’ve spent a lot of money in a lot of cities, and their birth control is working,” she said, noting that if the city had taken up the organization’s offer several years ago, the deer problem may not exist today.