LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Deer belong in forests

Sep 14, 2012


Deer are beautiful animals in the right setting. Unfortunately, the herds have grown in numbers, are starving because of human intrusion and reduced browsing area, and are often diseased. The deer have resorted to eating and destroying naturally occurring and cultivated plants, resulting in enormous financial losses to homeowners and degradation to the natural beauty of the park system.

If this were the only impact on us, it might be acceptable. Unfortunately, it is not. Deer can host ticks and carry Lyme disease. Deer browse through residential neighborhoods and on plants in people’s yards where adults and children come in contact with shrubs and grasses that frequently harbor the deer ticks. If diseased ticks were to be present and a child brushed up against that plant, the tick would attach itself to the child, engorge itself on the child’s blood and then drop off. Lyme disease frequently goes undiagnosed and, if untreated, can lead to a lifelong serious medical problem.

Additionally, herds have been found to have tuberculosis, which is transmissible to humans and are also dying in substantial numbers from a hemorrhagic disease. It has been stated that there is currently no evidence that this disease is transmissible to humans. That is a medical disclaimer and doesn’t preclude the possibility that future evidence may find that it is transmissible to humans.

Deer belong in forests, not in residential neighborhoods. The deer herds that are in close contact with neighborhoods should not just be reduced, they should be totally eliminated. The DNR should take whatever steps they deem necessary to eliminate the deer population in proximity to developed areas.

Dr. Lloyd Rotz
Spring Lake



We have become our own worst enemy because of local/state regulations. Its easy to fix - just like they do in Alaska. Just shoot the dear! Be responsible know where your bullet will travel and just plain shoot the dear. Oh Wait!! you can't do that in the Tri-Cities area! Zoning! a police state. So tough luck - just let the dear just pillage your flower gardens, spread diseases. Who gives a turkey! Everything is stupid. Just plain redundant and stupid. And it will stay that way, because city fathers are just plain stupid. They can even be shot with cross-bows or regular bows if people don't like firearms. But NO! everything has to be stupid.


shoot the dear- haha, good one! 'everything has to be so stupid', look in the mirror...it's spelled DEER. It's an animal, not a loved one! haha I ♥ venison steaks. shoot the dear!


lets see. Have the city pay for people to come in a take care of the deer problem...or sell hunting licenses and make money on getting rid of the deer problem.


My question is, are the deer being killed, or hit with tranquilizers? if killed, someone better be donating the meat to feed the hungry! And if tranq'd then the deer should be brought to areas further out than Robinson township.. I would suggest the Holton area, where there are many hunters who frequent the Manistee national forests up there, and ample room for the deer. If they get stuck back to Robinson township again, they will just be back in a year or so.... i see both of those options working as a more cost efficient way to deal with the issue... otherwise they'll be back!


'Deer belong in the forest'...DON'T build your houses in the forest.


Thank you Dr. Rotz for bringing some more facts to the discussion. While I agree that elimination of deer in urban environments would be the best for the reasons you mentioned, it is very difficult to accomplish this in an area such as the North Ottawa dunes. Deer are extremely adept at avoiding detection in that type of terrain and with adjacent private areas with large acreage, it would be difficult to eliminate them. Best practice would therefore be to conduct annual, controlled hunts which would bring the population down to a level that would balance and control the destruction of vegetation and reduce the chance the diseases you mentioned would occur. Prior to this area becoming a park that is exactly what was taking place.


Dr. Rotz, Thank you for the very well written letter. We as sportsman appreciate your support.


What Dr. Rotz forgets is that those residential neighborhoods used to be the forests where deer lived. We, humans, have encroached on them and keep enticing them to come to our yards with plants that they find attractive. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to outsmart a deer though! They are many beautiful and resilient native plants that the deer don't care for. If it's hostas or other deer munchies what you must have, then you can use simple and effective scare devices, like motion sensor sprinklers, or repellents to keep the deer away.

I honestly don't know one person who has been given a disease by a deer. I have myself never seen a tick around! Although the name is misleading, the main carrier of "deer" ticks is the white-footed mouse, not deer. Kids, adults and pets are more likely to become ill by the pesticides and herbicides that people douse their lawns with in order to maintain their manicured urban landscape. And, talking about safety, have you heard about hunting accidents?

Deer are welcome in my yard. Bullets or arrows do not belong in residential neighborhoods.


Welcome to the discussion Sue. You seem to be bringing some level headed thoughts to the discussion. While you maybe right about not knowing someone that has contacted Lyme disease, it does occur and deer are one of carriers of the tick. When deer densities increase, so does the chance of contacting the tick. Not all ticks carry the disease but the odds begin to increase. If deer are walking into neighborhoods and lawns at night the odds of children contact the tick increase. You can rid your lawn of ticks, by applying pesticides and as you point out, expose people to the chemical.

The real issue at hand is the vegetation destruction that is occurring. Deer are ferocious browsers and can eliminate any new buds and shrubs within their reach. Take notice next time you drive along an area with a field and tree lined edge. When you look at the wood line where many deer are present, or have been, you will notice it looks like someone went along with a hedge trimmer. That is called a browse line and deer are the hedge trimmers!

So by conducting a managed, controlled hunt really makes sense. Bullets and arrows would not be in the neighborhood, this is an exaggeration used to scare people into believing it is unsafe. Most of these homes are surrounded by hills. Most of the hunting would occur far from these homes and surrounded by more hills. Any hunter given a permit will know of these transition areas. The chances of shots going up and over these hills is very unlikely.


Well put Wingmaster! One thing to add to your comment is the danger to these peoples pets contracting lyme disease from the ticks. Even an indoor pet can contract this, people walking there dogs in these deer populated areas are more prone to contract the disease.than an indoor pet. Still this problem occurs within city limits where there are no deer present. Lyme disease is one of the most common tick-transmitted diseases in the world. It is caused by a spirochete (bacteria) species of the Borrelia burgdorferi group. Dominant clinical feature in dogs is recurrent lameness due to inflammation of the joints. There may also be a lack of appetite and depression. More serious complications include damage to the kidney, and rarely heart or nervous system disease.
Kidney disease appears to be more prevalent in Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, and Bernese Mountain dogs.


Very true, I forgot about dogs and cats. They are more likely to pick up the tick and transfer to the owner.


Who is suggesting "bullets and arrows" do? And yes, I am sure we all have heard of hunting accidents. Have you heard of car accidents? If so, what is your point?


Other than not having enough to do - short of insinuating that anyone who disagrees with them is slanderous, WingMaster and ghresident must not be true conversationists. As a hunter I cannot support the radical statements made by Dr. Rotz. Bovine TB has not been found in deer since 1994 and never around here. Prior to that it was 1975. EHD is not transmissible. Lyme? Come on guys or gals, if you are female - educate yourself. Even local vets can help you out there regarding the role deer play and how many, many other species carry the tick. They can live in the soil for up to two years - without a blood meal. It is not deer spreading Lyme, in fact current studies show quite the opposite. CDC may be a good place for you and even Dr. Rotz to start. Contact our own County MD, Dr. Paul Heidel if you like. The real concern for my family and I however, is any reference anywhere - from either side to eliminate a wild animal. When you agree with extremists such as Dr. Rotz it chips away at anything else you say. I respect the Whitetail too much to agree with one who would have them eliminated.


Good post Lakota05. It shows you are engaging in thoughts regarding this topic. While I agree with the thoughts on ticks, disease, and carriers and transmission I think you fell off the boat with the rest of the conversation. First of all walk in my shoes first if you think I have nothing better to do. Your no better than the rest making that comment and actual are making my case regarding those in this conversation making smart, slanderous at times, comments about others. I will repeat to you what I have to others, WHAT IS YOUR SOLUTION to the overpopulation/over browsing that is occurring. It is the problem in this area. All the other chatter here is designed to muddy the waters to change opinion. A conversationalist not only cares for the living and breathing animals but the environment in which they, we all live. As human we have the unique ability to alter, sometimes drastically, the world in which we live for good and bad. Like it or not, we have already altered the environment, and I believe we need to understand that and accept our roles to be good stewards of this earth. You are guilty of insinuating that I or Dr Rotz, would have all deer eliminated everywhere. I am not. I do not believe he is. Reread his post and you will clearly see he states "within proximity to developed areas" If you would like to take him to task over his comments, challenge what he means by close proximity. In an environment like this, that has been created by man in this area, we need to help balance out nature. We are top of food chain beings and thats part of our role like it or not. Doing nothing is not the answer. In fact, doing nothing is irresponsible as we created the situation by taking away habitat from animals to build homes here and every they exist. Thank you.

Foxy Lady

Lyme Disease is vectored principally by a hard tick which was first found on the Deer Mouse. That's how the name Deer Tick started.

Not every tick carries the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease. And, even if the tick is infected, it may not transfer the bacteria. Time is crucial: the longer the tick is attached to your skin, the greater your risk. Researchers estimate that the probability of infection is low during the first couple of hours.

The name "deer tick" is a misnomer to begin with. These ticks can also be found on 49 bird species, and at least 30 species of mammal, including chipmunks, grey squirrels, voles, foxes, rabbits, and opossums, and even certain reptiles.

The favorite habitat of the deer tick is actually the coats of mice: where mice congregate, so will the ticks which transmit Lyme disease.

Areas with thick ground cover (more than ankle-deep) averaged 23 times the tick populations of areas with sparse or low-lying vegetation.

The reason? Mice need dense ground cover to feel secure. "Mice have three principal requirements to inhabit an area: variety of food, nearby water, and ground cover, which is extremely important for protection, whereas open space is dangerous,"
There is a misconception among most people that deer are the culprit. But no; it's really the mice."

It turns out that ever-adaptable mice find themselves at home in lawns and hedges. Mice and ticks often hide in plants such as pachysandra. And in a forest fragmented by development, these locations have the added benefit to mice of being mostly free of predators, like foxes and weasels, who require larger blocks of woodland as hunting grounds.

Ecologists have known for years that when forested landscapes are carved up, biodiversity decreases. In small forest fragments, the mouse population skyrockets, probably due to the loss of their predators and competitors.
The deer, like other animals and humans, are simply hosts on which the ticks may feed or use for transportation. Since mice, rather than deer, are the cause Lyme disease, lowering the deer density would not impact the incidence of Lyme disease. And, if there are no deer, the ticks will seek humans.
Factors for acquiring Lyme disease include: participating in brush clearing activities from June through August, and the presence of birdfeeders, woods or rock walls on residential property. Mice and ticks find themselves at home in lawns and hedges and often hide in plants such as pachysandra. The disease moves into suburban backyards in part because the infected ticks are attracted to birdfeeders, as are other tick-carrying creatures.


Fearmongering extraordinaire - what a talent!
Unfortunately, just being a doctor, doesn't give one automatic credentials of being correct on this subject!
The terrific comments supported by facts regarding the impossibility of humans contracting some of the deer diseases are putting Dr. Rotz's "knowledge" to shame!
Anyone who is impressd with this good doctor's theories, jumping on this silly bandwagon, ought to do some serious research instead of making fools of themselves as well!

Bina Robinson

Hunting seasons reduce deer populations only temporarily. In the long run, the remaining animals tend to increase reproduction to compensate for the loss. The result is often an increase in their population which perpetuates hunting - just what hunters want. Left alone, and this includes no feeding or killing by humans, the population will stabilize in balance with the food supply. Killing, on the other hand, gives more deer the incentive to move in from surrounding areas inceasing the population still further.


Increase production is what PETA tells you and its nonsense. Do you have any idea how the population stabilizes in your scenario? What happens to the habitat in your scenario? What happens to the urban area before the population "stabilizes?" See this www.qdma.com/forums/showthread.p....
Don't believe that see this www.naturetourism.allegheny.edu/... or how about this www.wpconline.org/dailyphotos/de.... Another link www.actionbioscience.org/biodive... You may not believe it but your method would be more cruel to the deer and potential dangerous to everybody who lives in the area. Deer just continue to bred and overpopulate without predators to keep them in check. The ecosystem is destroyed. Hunting is the most cost effective way to manage and control the population and protect the environment.

Mr. Conservative

look up your crap you ignorant liberal. You are PETA's puppet.


Please see above my response to "Kathy p." And, if deer "move in" from "surrounding areas", doesn't that REDUCE the deer herd in those very same areas?

kathy p.

Hunting is a safety issue for children, families, and domesticated pets. We have the right to enjoy our land and parks without being harassed by those hunting. We need to do further study and research into this issue. As numerous published studies have shown killing deer doesn't work and will not solve the problem. After the killings, more deer will move into the area and reproduce. More fawns will be born because now there is more food available, and this cycle of killing will continue yet another year.
Hunting simply decreases the competition for food among the animals that survive a hunt. The animals left behind will be better fed, become stronger and their potential for reproduction will increase. As quite clearly stated in the college textbook "Wildlife Ecology and Management" (Fifth Edition, Pearson Education, Inc. 2003) "{h}unting mortality is frequently compensatory because it usually increases the life expectancy of individuals surviving the hunt, promotes higher reproductive rates, or does both."


We also have the right to enjoy these parks without being harassed by you. Really seriously you’ve only posted this in what 4 out the five articles on this? Your multiple posting of the same thing is getting you absolutely no where. Why not come right out and say you support PETA and your and ANTI, you might be far better off, the only harassment you’re going to get from hunters is here posting publicly the same redundantly ignorant comments.


"Kathy p." continues to spout the same tired and disproved assertions of the Defenders of Urban Wildlife who have been unsuccessful in gaining public support for their opposition to urban deer management practices in Grand Haven. She and they like to shout the term "compensatory rebound" based in part on a study they at one time included on their website. It was a 30 year-old study co-authored by Dr. Ronald Labisky and was entitled Reproductive Dynamics Among Disjunct White-tailed Deer Herds in Florida. The study found, in part, that there was slight increase in fertility rates in hunted herds vs. non-hunted herds. Note my use of the term slight and what Dr. Labisky says about HIS findings. Their use of this study caused me to read the study in its entirety. Furthermore, I reached out to Dr. Labisky and was shocked and surprised that he responded to my email inquiries. We all know what "Kathy p." and her ilk say. Hunting deer means the remaining deer will have more food; therefore, more deer will be born. Well. I'll repost some of my conversation with Dr. Labisky and let others be the judge as to the veracity of the statements from Defenders of Urban Wildlife and "Kathy p." His comments are in parenthesis ( ) and I emphasize key points with ALL CAPS. The text display features of this forum are a bummer, but I hope you all can read this. (First off, managing deer herds is urban settings is a complex problem, and I have never researched urban deer populations. I can offer some comments, and will. No, I have never heard of the term “compensatory rebound”. I suspect they derived the term from a statement that Richter and I made on page 969 of our 1985 paper: “Although pregnancy rates DID NOT DIFFER SIGNIFCANTLY between hunted and nonhunted sites in Florida, the number of fetuses per pregnant doe was greater on hunted than nonhunted sites. The index of net reproductive gain, fawns excluded, was 1.240 in hunted herds and 1.075 in nonhunted herds, suggesting that HUNTED HERDS WERE IN BETTER BALANCE with the carrying capacities of their ranges.” I stand by that statement, and besides that concept is as old as the hills. But, let’s tease it apart, by starting with the term carrying capacity. In Florida, nutrition is very poor; levels of crude protein, phosphorus, and in vitro organic matter digestibility in major forages in pine flatwoods habitat “was deficient year-round with respect to the nutritional requirement of white-tailed deer” (Kilgo and Labisky. 1995. Florida Scientist 58: 327-334). Furthermore, does in Florida do not breed until 18 months of age, whereas a high proportion of does in the Midwestern states breed as fawns, e.g., (94% in Illinois). Another facet in Florida is the high predation rate on fawns; a minimum of 60% (94% by extrapolation) of fawns were killed by bobcats in the Florida Everglades (Labisky and Boulay. 1998. American Midland Naturalist 139: 275-281). In your part of the world, PREDATORS ARE ABSENT or at low population levels. All these factors contribute to the low density of deer in Florida (range of about 10-30 deer per square mile)—far lower than densities in your part of the world. Thus, we have a few problems with deer in urban settings, save for homes/landscapes nested within inviolate natural preserves. In fact, statewide, the sportsman cry is for MORE deer, thus, we harvest few does. Bottom line: MANAGEMENT OF DEER IN FLORIDA IS MUCH DIFFERENT THAN IN MICHIGAN. Your region of Michigan has good forage that provides high nutrition; thus, productivity is high, which contributes to moderate/high densities. Urban areas and parks, thus, become sanctuaries for deer—resulting in deer damage to natural and urban landscapes. The problem is too many deer in environments with limited carrying capacity. Noteworthy, in this respect, is that the overpopulation of deer has occurred in many Midwestern states in the past 50 or 60 years (e.g., Wisconsin, Iowa, and South Dakota), which led to the now general practice of harvesting female deer to reduce populations. Some of these reductions were drastic, thereby unpopular, but necessary. Some folks have championed sterilization and other related techniques as a means of reducing populations. In my opinion, such approaches are cost-prohibitive and ineffective. For example, if you do manage to render the entire herd incapable of reproduction, you still have the “standing” herd intact and capable of continuing damage to the vegetation until they die. Furthermore, you will continue to get an influx of deer from surrounding environs. YOU ARE ALREADY AT HIGH REPRODUCTIVE LEVELS, SO THE REDUCTION OF DOES TO THE SO-CALLED "COMPENSATORY REBOUND" IS INCONSEQUENTIAL IN YOUR SITUATION. The bottom line is that you need to reduce your deer population before it gets out of hand.) Remember, this is the author of the study opponents of hunting and culling say “proves” THEIR theory called “compensatory rebound”. Am I the only one who finds it telling that Dr. Labisky has never heard of the term? What is most disappointing about “Kathy p.” and her ilk is they want to pretend they understand what they view as the “science” behind their positions. But unlike science, their positions don’t stand up to a modicum of “peer review”. Their minds are made up and that’s just the way it is. What is surprising to me is when you peel back the onion layers of who these people are...they are educated urbanites, pampered by our modern life, who have spent precious little time in the wild. This absence of experience with wildlife oozes from their writings like water from a wet sponge.


Wow, very impressive. Your post is worth repeating every time this study is twisted by others to offer flawed opinions to this debate. Thanks RenegadeX for doing what investigative reporters are supposed to be PAID to do. See Tribune reporters, that is what someone there could be doing with their time rather then coming up with silly worded polls or inflammatory titled piece regarding this hunt. Actually call the author of the repeatedly posted study on here and ask questions! For those that are lurking and following along with this discussion, this should give you pause to think. If you are of the same views against this hunt as kathy p and others you should really be thinking long and hard. Notice how most on this forum that are pro hunting and hunters themselves, spend time actually studying and understand throughly the complex problems of urban deer. I suspect those same hunters, like myself have been already practicing if the are bowhunters for at least a month now. We are dedicated to being competent when we entire the field. We respect the game we hunt deeply. We practice and are very familiar with our weapons. We have all been through safety programs and most have spent additional time practicing that safety with Mothers and Fathers and peers. Yes I said Mothers. There are more and more female hunters involved with the sport. I have spent time afield with both of my daughters many times before they were of age to hunt and now that they are. I would not be exposing my kids, that I love dearly, to an unsafe environment. Like my father did with me, we discuss safety nearly every time we uncase our guns. We hunters find it very offensive when the uninformed make wild claims regarding how unsafe hunting would be. I feel safer at a camp fire with hunters then I do in a coffee shop in the city with these so called compassionate people. So if you are a non hunter that is fine, but hunting the deer in this park offers a cost effective, safe solution to this problem.


RenegadeX - Brent Rudolph, Sara Schaefer and Nik Kalejs - all from the DNR confirm compensatory rebound. I am surprise you deny it exists.


Hmmm. I have heard Mr. Kalejs speak on the subject of deer management, though I have never heard him use the term "compensatory rebound". What I have heard him say is that proper deer management can lead to a healthier herd, and that deer density in Northwest Ottawa County is high, exceeding some 30+ animals per square mile.

The challenge for those who champion this so-called "compensatory rebound" theory is to explain away why the herd in western Michigan is, as Dr. Labisky observes, already at " high reproductive levels". Since so many does already have twins and triplets, are you suggesting that a cull or hunt of them will result in the spontaneous births of quadruplets and quintuplets?


Moderators have removed this comment because it contained misplaced comment. Discussion Guidelines


Oh boy....another spammer.


My take from Dr. Rotz's letter is that he's upset because deer are eating his flowers, and so he believes that ALL the deer in the surrounding community should be killed, or in his words "totally eliminated". As a result, he seems to be trying to scare the public with misinformation about Lyme disease, Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD), and bovine Tuberculosis. I don't know if he actually believes what he's saying, but it's apparent that his areas of expertise are not wildlife biology or Lyme disease.

The worlds leading Lyme disease experts emphatically refute the notion that killing deer will reduce tick populations or Lyme disease rates.

"There is NO LINEAR correlation between killing deer and the tick population. ... There is NO scientific justification for a deer killing program." Tamara Awerbuch, Ph.D., Instructor, Department of Population and International Health, Harvard School of Public Health

"A comprehensive review of the scientific literature on the relationship between numbers of deer and numbers of ticks reveals that the majority of studies find NO statistical correlation AT ALL. Deer do not infect ticks with Lyme bacteria, and actually reduce the infection prevalence in tick poulations." Richard Ostfeld, PhD, Senior Scientist, the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, and author of "Lyme Disease: The Ecology of a Complex System (2010, Oxford Univ. Press)

See the letter to the editor, " Facts Not Fear", by Susan Rhem-Westhoff, Wed., 9/19/12.

In the face of this indisputable research it becomes unsupportable to kill deer to reduce ticks or Lyme disease rates.

In addition, deer browsing actually decreases the tick population, because mice, the prime carriers of ticks and Lyme disease, need thick ground cover for their habitat. Where the deer eat the low-lying vegetation, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) researchers could not find many ticks. One CDC researcher said, "The deer are doing our job for us in getting rid of ticks."

The deer hemorrhagic disease that Dr. Rotz refers to is, Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD), and it's not contagious to humans or pets - period. Bovine TB in deer is extremely rare, and there has never been any infected deer found in Ottawa County.

Furthermore, there are no starving deer in the North Ottawa Dunes. The deer are healthy and doing fine.

Dr. Rotz's solution of killing every deer in some imaginary free range area is irrational and impossible. He would have to kill every deer in Ottawa County and then erect a fence around the County to save his flowers, because the remaining deer will still eat them. That said, I find it disturbing that someone would want to slaughter so many animals, and threaten the safety of all the families in their neighborhood from the use of high powered lethal weapons, just to protect their flowers,

There are very effective proven methods of deer proofing your landscape and garden. Dr. Rotz might not be able to plant tulips or hostas w/o spraying repellents, i.e. those flowers are irresistible to deer, but there are a wide variety of beautiful flowers and plants that are deer resistant, and there are many proven deterrents, including fencing that can protect his flowers. I would recommend that he do a little research and implement a combination of these proven solutions.



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