EL Deer Kills to Start Soon

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Thursday, October 1, 2015, 8:22 am
Alice Dreger

Image courtesy of USDA.

Deer culls—government-controlled killing by firearms—will likely begin in East Lansing in late November or early December according to Cathy DeShambo, Environmental Services Administrator for the City of East Lansing. DeShambo revealed this in speaking to the Council of Neighborhood Presidents meeting on Monday, September 27, at the Hannah Community Center.

As we previously reported, deer in the area have been identified as having chronic wasting disease (CWD). CWD is a concern both because it causes affected deer significant suffering before death and because of concerns it could cross to the state’s cattle population, or ultimately even to humans. CWD is a prion disease, similar to the disease known colloquially as Mad Cow Disease. (Read more.)

DeShambo said the plan is to start with the herds occupying parkland in the Harrison Meadows and Whitehills neighborhoods of East Lansing. She said that City staff has been working on plans for the cull with the USDA Wildlife division and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

East Lansing Police officers will be present during the kills to prevent people from wandering into the parks where shooting is occurring. Nearby residents will be notified of the culls once dates are set. DeShambo said that silencers will be used on the guns but that nearby residents can expect to hear “pops.” DeShambo emphasized that the shooters will be professionals.

According to DeShambo, the plan is not to distribute the meat for food because the meat can’t be kept cold enough long enough to withstand testing for CWD and then to be distributed. She also said that food is not the point of the cull. The point is, rather, to reduce the size of the herd and to check to see how many animals are infected. She said that City staff has been working with MSU students to use this as a learning opportunity for Fisheries and Wildlife students.

DeShambo noted that City staff is not supposed to remove road-killed deer, nor are residents. Road-killed deer should be reported by calling the DNR at 517-614-9602 and leaving “a voicemail with location information and staff will attempt to pick up carcasses on the next open business day.” Live deer that appear to be unusual thin or exhibiting unusual behavior should be reported by calling 517-336-5030.

At the Council of Neighborhood Presidents meeting, neighborhood leaders identified many places where deer have appeared in East Lansing, including Henry Fine Park (between Coolidge Road and Harrison Road, south of Lake Lansing Road), Burcham Park (the old landfill site at the southwest corner of Burcham Road and Park Lake Road), and near the Southeast Marble neighborhood. The Red Cedar neighborhood representative said that deer often wander around the roads there in the evening.

DeShambo said in general the government only deals with deer on publicly-owned properties, but that if there are diseased animals on private property, that could present a different situation.

One person at the meeting asked why the government doesn’t simply let nature take its course. DeShambo responded that this “is the most humane response to this situation in terms of disease control.” She said trying to capture and move deer can lead to problems, including deer trying to come back to their “home” territory and causing fatal accidents along roads. Poisoning is not a preferred method because the agencies want to be able to take killed deer in for testing, and poisoning can make it difficult to find the killed animals.

DeShambo indicated that the plan for the culls will be presented soon to East Lansing’s City Council. ELi will continue to follow this story.



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