Wednesday, July 22, 2009

MICHIGAN NEWS: Ferrysburg Discusses Deer Management Options

While the debate over what to do with deer living in the city limits may be old hat in Grand Haven, the discussion is just heating up across the Grand River.

Ferrysburg officials have received complaints about deer destroying landscapes in the city, prompting City Council to hold a work session on the issue Monday night to discuss options for controlling the herd — including the possibility of a hunt to thin it.

The area surrounding Ferrysburg is largely undeveloped and agricultural, making it ideal for white-tailed deer, Mayor Pro-Tem Tim Scarpino said. And while the city has received complaints about the deer, he said he was concerned about their effect on other parts of the city.

Deer feed on and damage local vegetation, Scarpino said, including some protected plants at the Ferrysburg-owned Kitchel-Lindquist Dunes Preserve in Grand Haven. Something needs to be done about the deer in order to protect the plants, he said.

"You can't simply value one species of plant or animal over all the others," Scarpino said. "The deer are creating damage to plants that are rare and endangered."

Councilwoman Regina Sjoberg said she wants to look at alternatives to a cull involving sharpshooters — similar to the two conducted in Grand Haven earlier this year — including the possibility of a coordinated bow hunt during hunting season in the fall.

Councilman Chris Larson echoed Sjoberg's idea, suggesting it could be open to local hunters.

Ferrysburg currently bans hunting within 450 feet of an occupied dwelling, but those who live on more than 30 acres and meet certain other criteria are allowed to hunt on their own property.

Sjoberg also suggested attempts at deer contraception, which she said could reduce the herd by 50 percent in six years. [Rooney: This seems far-fetched. I am unaware of any study that has achieved deer reductions with contraception-only as rapidly as they suggest. Fifteen to twenty years is more realistic, assuming annual management of individuals entering the population from elsewhere.]

But one councilman said the decision shouldn't rest with the city. The state gave control over deer hunting and regulation to the Department of Natural Resources, Councilman Thomas Spoelman said.

"It shouldn't be an emotional issue for us — it should be an issue for the DNR," he said. "It's not Ferrysburg's call."

Council directed City Manager Craig Bessinger to stay in contact with Grand Haven about their own deer issues. Council also floated the idea of a possible deer management meeting or group with representatives from Ferrysburg, Grand Haven and Spring Lake.


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