Township’s deer management program maintains success

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By Stephanie Hernandez McGavin
The Meridian Times

Land management coordinator Jane Greenway presented the progress of the Meridian Township’s deer management program to the township board on April 7.

After numerous complaints from Meridian residents about deer overpopulation, damage to property and deer-vehicle collisions, the board authorized a deer management plan in 2011.

The deer management program ended its hunting season on Feb. 28. There were 159 deer harvested and a drop in 43 reported deer-car collisions since 2013.

Greenway said that the township’s deer management program has made exceptional accomplishments, and other communities often reach out to her for advice for their programs.

Greenway said that the initial challenge of hunting in a suburban setting caused the program to start slow in 2011. But so far, the program has collected large numbers of deer, had no hunting accidents and donated more than 1,650 pounds of venison to local food banks.

“It’s respected because it’s so highly managed. We oversee every step, ” said Greenway. “We do it on a shoestring budget, too.”

In addition to maintaining the deer population, Greenway said the program benefits the community as a recreational activity for approved, licensed hunters.

Greenway said, “A lot of our hunters are really happy that they don’t have to leave, and they have an outdoor recreational activity that is something that’s here in their own backyard.”

Haslett Community Church Food Pantry volunteer Sylvia Davis said the deer management program is instrumental in her pantry’s ability to provide fresh, healthy food.

Davis said, “We’re on a restricted budget, and this really helps us to furnish meat to that many more families. We’re doing about 100 families a month. This has made all the difference in the world.”

Without the venison, Davis said that the food pantry would struggle to contribute enough food to those in need.

Davis said, “It made all the difference because our freezers were bare, and it really helped to get us through.”

While Greenway and her staff have had much success with their program, the deer population remains high. She tentatively suggested focusing on an isolated herd of deer using professional shooters.

Township trustee John Veenstra said he was unsure about using professional shooters, since Greenway had already mentioned the benefits of the program as a recreational activity for the township. Veenstra said he wanted to make sure that Meridian residents kept control of the program.

However, Greenway said this suggestion and her proposal to enact a law against feeding deer were only being introduced as future options for the township to consider before the 2015 deer harvest begins its 5th year in the fall.

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