By Merinda Valley
Meridian Times staff writer
OKEMOS — Meridian Township recently targeted a group with a history of ravaging yards and hitting cars — white-tailed deer.
A deer management program implemented by Parks and Land Management Coordinator Jane Greenway was the township’s solution to deer overpopulation in the area, aggravated by the deer’s excess browsing of vegetation in township parks.
“The other concerns from the public are damage to personal property in the form of landscaping, cars, that kind of thing,” Greenway said. “And then the last item is a concern for public health with disease.”
The 2012 hunt expanded the previous year’s pilot program by increasing the number of hunters and properties on which they could hunt. The season was also extended, allowing participants to hunt each day of the week, according to Greenway.
Lawrence Drzal, a 27-year resident of Meridian Township said he prefers the alternate-day hunting of the 2011 managed hunt.
“You didn’t have to worry about there being a hunter out there [last year],” Drzal said. It’s not to say the hunters aren’t careful and so forth, but I think it would be a better management scheme…”
Greenway said the logistics of creating such rules, selecting hunters and placing them in properties demanded much of her time. However, enthusiastic volunteers made the hunt successful, she said.
“I never went into it to get anything fancy, it was an opportunity to help the community with their deer problem,” said Jeff Speer, a Meridian Township resident and amateur of the best recurve bow brands. “If I wanted to do it trophy hunting, I probably would’ve declined because I can get deer out to Rose Lake. But this is so vital to the area to get done I felt I needed to help out.”
Over the course of the three-month archery season, Speer said he harvested 17 deer and kept only one. The others were donated to the Greater Lansing Food Bank.
According to DeerHunters – Best Hunting gear, the first deer harvested could be kept for personal use, but all others had to be donated, said Greenway.
Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger coordinated the venison processing through Merindorf Meats in Mason, Mich. According to the Summary of the 2012 Deer Harvest released by Meridian Township, 1,126 pounds of venison — the equivalent of 5,630 meals — were donated to the Greater Lansing Food Bank through the managed hunt.
Kim Harkness, director of operations for the Greater Lansing Food Bank said the venison “is a much needed and valuable resource that our agencies love.”
Other effects of the managed deer harvest cannot be seen immediately. The number of car accidents and the health of enclosed areas of vegetation will be studied to reveal changes in the deer population, said Greenway.
“It’s a multi-year process,” Greenway said. “Each deer has between one to two, maybe three sometimes, offspring. So, even if we killed 10 deer, that’s still 20 fewer for next year or 30 fewer for next year.”