By Chris Hauler
Entirely East Lansing
When City Manager George Lahanas took office three years ago, he was surprised to learn how important deer management is to residents.
“One big conversation has been about vacant buildings downtown,” said, Lahanas. “The No. 2 conversation, no matter where I am, people want to talk about deer. So, this is obviously an important issue.”
More than two dozen citizens attended the city sponsored deer management meeting at the Bailey community center. The event gave residents a forum to voice their feelings and concerns over what many consider an overpopulation of deer.
“We talk about citizen engagement, I want to tell you, this is it,” said Lahanas. “This is people coming together to give the city good feedback.”
The purpose of the meeting, other than public feedback, was to better understand the issue of deer management and inform the community about potential solutions.
The increase in deer has led residents to wonder why the spike? Dr. Henry Campa, a Michigan State University professor of wildlife, gave a 20-minute presentation highlighting the changes in landscape as a reason.
“Deer like areas where there are multiple types of vegetation,” said Campa, who has studied wildlife for 35 years. “When you create openings, when you fertilize lawns, that’s great habitat for deer.”
While the increased deer population opens opportunity for wildlife viewing and hunting, many citizens have been concerned about the damage done to their gardens, the lack of vegetation in city parks, disease, and car accidents.
“One of the reasons we have seen a lot of deer recently is due to the tough winter,” said Campa. “Deer were nutritionally stressed last winter, so come spring time they were hitting gardens and urban areas because the food is easier to get.”
While the city has already begun the process of managing the deer population through a restriction on public feeding, some residents want to see the process sped up.
Cathy DeShambo, the city’s environmental services administrator, said the city would not have a knee-jerk reaction but would instead look for the most successful way to correct the issue.
“There are no cookie cutter answers for these type of problems,” said DeShambo. “That’s why we are doing our due diligence, gaining feedback, and working with the DNR. The next step is getting baseline data for how many total deer are in the city which will lead us toward a resolution.”