Wednesday, September 02, 2009

MICHIGAN NEWS: Grand Haven Ponders More Culling

Grand Haven officials will hold a conference call with representatives from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources today to discuss details of proposed deer culls this fall and winter.

City officials have made a verbal request with the DNR to resume hunts using certified sharpshooters to thin the urban deer population.

Sara Schaefer, a wildlife supervisor for the DNR, said she told city officials to file an official request in writing. That request would include specific details, such as how many deer would be targeted and where the hunts would be held.

Schaefer said the conference call will give the city direction in applying for the permit. She said the city's application will be approved because the DNR believes Ottawa County's deer population has grown beyond acceptable levels.

She said investigations into several habitats in Grand Haven have proven deer are destroying natural vegetation -- such as the flowering trillium -- while causing erosion to critical dunes.

The areas of the city with the most deer are near Lake Forest Cemetery and Harbor Island -- both on the city's west side. Deer also have been spotted on the city's east side.

Schaefer said city officials have indicated they would like to resume culls as early as this month.

Supporters of city-authorized sharpshooters thinning the herd say deer populations have escalated to unhealthy levels. They say deer are destroying private property, especially gardens and expensive landscaping. They add that deer have moved closer to the city center, causing public safety threats to drivers and residents.

Others fear the deer will bring disease-carrying ticks into the city, making it a public health issue as well.

"As far as the DNR is concerned, this is not about flowers in people's yards. This is about protecting natural resources -- especially the critical dunes, forest areas and green space," Schaefer said.

Last fall, sharpshooters killed 19 deer on Harbor Island and in Lake Forest Cemetery during separate hunts. The city's public safety department closed both public areas during the hunts.

Still, opponents say the hunts aren't safe because of nearby residential neighborhoods. In an attempt to save the deer during last year's hunt at the cemetery, several residents showed up banging pots and pans and honking car horns.

Source: MLive

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