Tuesday, February 10, 2009

MICHIGAN NEWS: Rochester Hills Cull Halted Amid Outcry

After months of protests and strongly voiced opposition to a deer culling operation in Rochester Hills, the city council voted about midnight Tuesday to halt the effort.

In an unexpected 4-3 vote after a long meeting that started at 7:30 p.m. Monday, the council voted to stop the culling -- which started last month -- and create a committee to study the city’s deer management policy.

Residents were excited at the council’s decision.

“I think this is fantastic,” said Carol Donovan, adding that she believes the issue finally became clearer to council members. “I am surprised.”

Council President Greg Hooper and Councilmen J. Martin Brennan and Vern Pixley voted against the measure, with Councilman Michael Webber being the surprise vote in favor of stopping the cull, which the council approved in November.

“I go back and forth on this issue, I really have. I really struggle with it,” Webber said. “I don’t feel as though the culling has had the impact that we thought it would.”

Councilman Erik Ambrozaitis, who made the motion to stop the cull, said fewer than 20 deer had been killed by sharpshooters with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, which was handling the effort for the city this winter for free. The city had permits from the Department of Natural Resources to kill up to 200 deer.

Webber said during the meeting that the cull was scheduled to stop at the end of this month.

This decision to halt the effort came under mounting pressure by those who vocally opposed the culling at council meetings and through protests. Dozens turned out at the meeting Monday to oppose the cull. For Rochester Hills resident Diane Pawlowicz, 62, it was disheartening that the elected officials -- at least initially -- seemed disinterested in hearing what people had to say.

“I voted for you,” she said. “I hoped that this would be a team of people that I could trust.”
But Brennan, standing up behind the council’s dais during the meeting, said that the council’s decision in November to approve the cull was the right one.

He said that Rochester Hills is a busy community, with people who don’t want to change their lifestyles by driving slower on roads to prevent deer-vehicle accidents, which he said he counts as one of the biggest concerns.

“This is a major suburb of Detroit,” Brennan said. “It’s not Walden pond.”

But these types of accidents have already decreased.

In 2007, there were 219 vehicle-deer crashes in the city, but area agencies project that number has dropped to a maximum of 160 in 2008, Lance DeVoe, the naturalist for Rochester Hills, has said. The expected decrease, DeVoe said, can most likely be attributed to a disease that killed about 100 deer in the city last year.

The next move for council is to create a committee of six citizens, three council members and city staff to assess the city’s deer management strategies, including reviewing deer-vehicle crash statistics, identifying possible sources of funding for implementing the policy and reviewing the deer cull.

Councilman Jim Rosen said the council moved too quickly in approving the cull.

“Let’s learn something from this,” he said, “and not ever do anything like this again.”

Source: freep.com

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