Monday, January 07, 2008

MICHIGAN NEWS: Cull in Jackson's Ella Sharp park Underway

Sharpshooters stationed themselves Sunday in Ella Sharp Park for the first day of a deer harvest that was to kill dozens of the animals that regularly roam the Jackson park's golf course and fields.

Eight men or women with Centerfire rifles shot antlerless deer, beginning after 4:30 p.m. and ending about 11 p.m. Sunday as part of an effort to control a deer population so prevalent many residents have deemed it a nuisance.

Late Sunday, there was no count available on the total number of deer killed. Park Superintendent Eric Terrian said he would not know until early today.

The shooting, depending on the weather conditions, could continue at 4:30 p.m. today and every night until the sharpshooters down 80 deer, Terrian said.

They are shooting in the afternoon to allow children to get safely home from school and avoid times of the day when people are more likely to visit the park and its museum.

Tuesday, sharpshooters also will station themselves in the Cascades Golf Course in Summit Township.

Shooting has been permitted by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources until Feb. 29, but Terrian said he is hopeful the harvest, discussed and planned for years, could wrap up as early as the end of the week.

By about 5:20 p.m. Sunday, as a fog made fuzzy the Jackson landscape, "several" deer already had been killed, said Terrian, who was sitting in a meeting room at the Ella Sharp Golf Course.

He said the shooters, who fire in close range of the animals, indicated the fog was not bothersome.

The roads around the golf course and park were closed, blocked with road signs that read "Deer harvest in progress." Police responded twice to calls about cars or people in the closed area.

Residents who live nearby said they did not hear shots nor see the sharpshooters.
"We were surprised," said Jeff Thomasson, who lives on Horton Road near the park and expected he'd notice when hunters took to the area.

He said he supports the harvest. "We need to thin them out for sure."

The deer overpopulate the park, causing car accidents and property damage. Neighbors have complained and many support efforts to reduce their numbers.

"We can't have flowers or flower beds. They just chew them up and eat them," Thomasson said.

Others say killing the deer is cruel.

"I think they are beautiful," said Nancy Crandell, who lives on Park Road across from the golf course. "I feel sorry for the deer. It's not their fault everyone encroached on them."

She said she has safety concerns about the harvest. "We didn't like the idea of guns and bullets. You don't know where they are going to end up."
Terrian said the process is safe.

Police are monitoring the area. Two DNR officers were at the park Sunday to make sure sharpshooters, who have to follow stringent guidelines, were following the rules, he said.

Once killed, at a price of about $110 a deer, the animals were taken out of the park.
The deer are to be locally processed, and the meat is to be donated to the food pantry at Immanuel Lutheran Church, 1505 W. Michigan Ave.

"We'll be glad to get it and put it to good use and distribute it," said Alice Wiltse, pantry coordinator.

She said demand is high. Last year, the pantry served 10,742 families, up 33 percent from 2006.

"There are many people in Jackson that need the food," she said.

Often, the pantry cannot get meat at a decent price, she said, and pantry clients enjoy venison.

With the donated meat, the pantry can use its money to buy more vegetables and fruit, and meet its goal of giving more food in 2008, she said.


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