Debating the deer cull

Alex Doty • Dec 21, 2016 at 10:00 AM

A month after a deer cull was approved by City Council, some elected officials are still demanding answers from the city’s administration.

On Monday night, Councilman Mike Fritz asked city administrators to provide specific information about the city’s deer cull plan, Grand Haven’s current deer population, any target it may have set for cull numbers and where cull activity would take place.

“I just want a report on what the percentage is you’re going to cull and what the count (of deer) is in town,” said Fritz, who voted against the cull alongside Councilman Bob Monetza on Nov. 21.

City Manager Pat McGinnis said that the wording in the resolution passed by council makes it “as many as we can get.” 

“(The resolution) didn’t say try to get 50 percent or 25 percent,” McGinnis noted. “If that’s not correct, I really do think we should have further discussion and direction from City Council. This isn’t a staff direction, it’s a City Council direction.”

There haven’t been any decisions made on where the culls will take place, he added.

McGinnis noted that there are no current numbers for the city’s deer population, and said that the city hasn’t conducted a deer count in several years.

“We were counting the city of Grand Haven up until 2013 when we came to City Council with a request for some resources to continue that counting,” McGinnis said. “At that time, City Council declined.”

The city then stopped its counting effort and, as a result, it has no data for the city’s urban deer population since 2013.

“When we were counting deer, the final answer was, ‘Why are we counting deer when there aren’t enough votes on council to do anything about the numbers that we come up with?’” Mayor Geri McCaleb said. “We stopped counting deer because it didn’t really matter, because City Council wasn’t going to authorize another cull.

“So, at that point, it becomes useless information because you’re not going to do anything with it,” she continued. “You’re just going to count how many deer you have.”

McCaleb said the city needs to do something because it has received complaints about damage to local ecology and property, and the number of Lyme disease cases and car crashes has met the threshold for action.

“It was a 3-2 vote (on Nov. 21) without specifics of counting them, and I think counting them at this point is just a delay,” the mayor said.

Data provided to council in a November report from city administration included countywide deer totals. Officials say that, in one case, state experts said there are fewer deer now than several years ago.

“The request (by City Council) was go back and look at the study and give us an update, so that’s what we did,” McGinnis said of the November report. “We just reported what we got back.”

Councilman Josh Brugger noted that he was satisfied with the city’s November report and its information.

“It was based on information presented to the city,” he said. “I felt it was satisfactory, and voted on it as such. I don’t feel like you need to look into any additional information at this time, especially if it’s going to cost more money.”

Added Brugger: “As far as the resolution — that’s passed, that’s done. We’ve directed the city manager to move on with it.”

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