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City discusses future deer management options

Alex Doty • Jul 17, 2018 at 12:00 PM

City of Grand Haven leaders continue to monitor data related to the local deer population and what should happen next.

In 2017, the city conducted two culls in which 25 deer were taken as part of the process. Officials provided details for City Council to help them determine their next steps.

"Local deer population estimates have become increasingly difficult to track," said Assistant City Manager Vester Davis, who reported on the local deer population to City Council on Monday night.

Davis noted that in order to get a better handle on the local deer population, Grand Valley State University proposed earlier this summer to have students study the population and movement patterns within the city. 

The proposal comes on the heels of a study conducted earlier this year by GVSU students who developed management recommendations for the city. Five primary objectives for management include preventing the spread of various tree diseases, removal of invasive vegetation, increase the regeneration of oak and hemlock by 40 percent, increase the regeneration of beech by 15 percent, and conduct annual monitoring of parks.

Davis also provided an update on deer crashes, complaints and health concerns of deer.

According to the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety and the Michigan State Police Traffic Crash Reporting System, there were 16 deer/car accidents in 2016 and 13 in 2017. There were five reported incidents so far this year. The three-year average number of deer/car incidents in Grand Haven is 11.

Additionally, over the past year, the city notes that the Ottawa County Department of Public Health logged 13 cases of Lyme disease. Davis said these reported cases are people who live in the county and may or may not have contracted Lyme disease here.

Elected officials have mixed feelings about what should be done in the future regarding the local deer population.

Mayor Geri McCaleb said she is interested in participating with GVSU on the deer population and movement study.

"I think if they are able to do that for us, it would be valuable for (the state)," she said. “... I'd also be in favor of looking at where the pockets of deer are that we could cull."

Others on council said they are also in favor of the GVSU study and getting more data to perform another cull in the future.

"I'm in favor of a cull, period," Councilman Dennis Scott said. "I don't think we've kept up with the birth rate."

Scott, along with Councilman Josh Brugger, noted that he would like to see the number of deer per square mile determined as a measure for when the city could implement a cull.

Others on City Council said they are more skeptical of the study, and whether it would make a difference in the outcome of how the city goes about managing deer.

Fritz said the city should look at more than just deer when considering wildlife management.

"We need to look at all wildlife, not one specific animal," he said, noting that more than just deer impact the local ecosystem.

Councilman Bob Monetza said that while he's not one to turn down valuable information, he is concerned about the study. He said he would be more apt to go along with it if the objective is to provide simple, objective data.

"I read this proposal and it's all about refining our target for culls," Monetza said.

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