City Council defers deer management action to 2016

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By Jess Todd
Entirely East Lansing

In 2011, some East Lansing residents filed concerns about landscape damage from deer. Now these concerns have reached a pinnacle due to a new worry about deer: chronic wasting disease.

Deer management map of East Lansing

The City of East Lansing’s Deer/Accident Map With Management Areas 2008-2015 that includes the proposed new zones.

According to the East Lansing City Council’s summary of deer management activity from 2011 to present, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources confirmed the first case of the disease in May of 2015 in Meridian Township. Since then, the state department brought in the USDA Wildlife Services to cull the deer population within a 2-mile radius of the site of the confirmed disease.

The Department of Natural Resources has also proposed that East Lansing include Harrison Meadow Park and White Park in the culling zone. However, a strong sentiment against killing deer arose at the Nov. 17 City Council meeting.

The new City Council, elected Nov. 3, had its first decision to make just minutes after being sworn in.

Five East Lansing residents opposed the expansion and one supported it. The comments included discomfort about high-powered weaponry and wanting more information about the number of deer carrying the disease and the extent to which the deer are spreading it.

“I think that a lot of the issues raised by the public hearings are valid points and waiting for more information would be a good idea,” said Mayor Mark Meadows.

Following the public hearings, Mayor Pro-Tem Ruth Beier moved to defer action on the extension of the culling zone until the City Council’s first meeting in February. Councilman Erik Altmann seconded the motion.

“What is the endpoint?” asked Altmann. “There is evidence that if you hunt a herd, the does become more effective (at reproduction),” Altmann said.

City Councilwoman Susan Woods said that there is a clear distinction between taking action because it is available and taking action to satisfy the numerous complaints. Because this distinction creates questions, she also agreed to defer action.

The City Council voted unanimously to defer action until the first meeting in February. In the meantime, the U.S. Wildlife Services will continue to collect data regarding the deer population in East Lansing parks and the spread of the disease.

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