City Changing Ordinance to Support Deer Hunt

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015, 9:59 pm
Alice Dreger

Image courtesy of USDA.

With plans in place to start killing deer in East Lansing starting late next month, City Council will be voting in November to change an ordinance to support the plan. Such a legal change may not really be necessary according to City Attorney Tom Yeadon. But Yeadon told City Council on Tuesday night that prudence suggests an amendment to the current ordinance involving restriction of firearms so that it will be straightforward in the future for the City or State to cull deer as necessary in the City of East Lansing.

The proposed change in the ordinance allows for both bow and firearm hunting, but only by “officers acting in the discharge of their duties or persons acting under the direction of the State of Michigan or City of East Lansing as part of a wildlife control protocol.” In other words, private hunters will not be permitted to kill deer.

The matter will be voted on November 17, by which point a new City Council will be seated. USDA Wildlife Services and Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are concerned because deer in Meridian Township have been found to have chronic wasting disease. Deer are also considered by many a serious pest because of destruction to property and potential for accidents.

At City Council’s meeting last night, the plan for the cull was presented by East Lansing’s Environmental Services Coordinator Cathy DeShambo along with Earl Krom and Tim Wilson from the USDA Wildlife Services. They explained that guns will be used in Harrison Meadows Park and White Park, with hunting at night and extensive advance communication, and with local police assistance in protecting humans from harm.

USDA’s Krom told Council that “our agency does this nationwide.” He said that “shooting in sensitive environments is what we do.” He explained that the shooters “are all NRA-certified. Almost all of us are instructors.” The bullets they use are available only through law enforcement and “reduce any pass-through,” i.e., make it unlikely a bullet will go through a deer and hit a human.

East Lansing Police Deputy Chief Jeff Murphy said that interactions with East Lansing residents and visitors during the culls will be conducted by ELPD officers. He said he had personally used the night vision equipment that the shooters will be using and that there is no way with such equipment that one would mistake a human for a deer.

During public comment, resident Dave McConnell said that if the City plans to use firearms, “I will immediately seek a court injunction against” the plan. His concern was safety. He said that he is a bow hunter of deer and that he would be interested in stationing himself in the gazebo in his backyard to bow-hunt passing deer. The ordinance as it currently stands and as it is likely to be changed would not allow that.

Resident Ray Vlasin also spoke, but in favor of the plan. He and Jim Veurink are co-chairs of the Harrison Meadows neighborhood association’s Government Relations Committee, and according to Vlasin their neighborhood “strongly supports” the pilot plan to conduct sharp-shooting of deer in the two parks. Vlasin praised DeShambo and other staff for their work on this issue and he said their association “stands ready” to assist in any way.

Vlasin said his neighborhood wants follow-through on the comprehensive deer management plan that has been discussed previously, and that he would like to see the plan brought to the neighborhood associations by early 2016. He said that many homeowners in his neighborhood have experienced “heavy financial and quality of life costs” from deer.

In response to a question from Councilmember Susan Woods, USDA’s Krom said that the recent cull in Meridian Township involved the killing of about 500 deer in a two-mile radius around where a chronic wasting disease-infected deer had earlier been found. He suggested the plan is to kill all the deer possible in Harrison Meadows and White Parks. Deer that are killed in the culls are taken to an MSU lab to be tested for chronic wasting disease.

Krom said that the sharp-shooters did not target mothers of fawns in Meridian when the fawns were too young to live without their mothers, but that now the fawns are mature enough to live on their own, and that they and the mothers will be killed when an opportunity safe to humans presents itself during the culls.

Councilmember Kathy Boyle, who lives in the Red Cedar neighborhood, indicated strong interest in having a cull take place in that area. There is no current plan to cull deer beyond the two designated parks.


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