opinion: Deer activity in Barton Hills doesn't justify plan to thin herd
I am writing in response to the recent article on Barton Hills’ deer-thinning program. To adapt Paul Harvey’s phrase, I wanted to fill in “the rest of the story.”
AnnArbor.com file photo
In the article, a U.S. Department of Agriculture spokesperson represents the operation as a one-day “hunt,” with the possibility of another “hunt” in the future if the deer “continue to pose a problem.” According to multiple conversations my fellow Ann Arbor Township neighbors and I have had with the Michigan DNR, however, the permit Barton Hills received allows for the killing of up to 80 deer—and the USDA shooters have until Feb. 15 to meet this number. Barton Hills may currently be planning a one-day “hunt,” but this is not set in stone.
Also, the justifications cited for the program—“roadway safety” and “landscaping issues”—may be delightful euphemisms, but they fail to stand up to scrutiny. A new study by the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments reported that car-deer accidents in Washtenaw County have been steadily declining since 2009. Furthermore, with Barton Hills’ low speed limits and ubiquitous speed bumps, hitting a deer would be virtually impossible.
Landscaping concerns are more legitimate since deer can indeed destroy plants. As the owner of a farm, I too get frustrated with deer-related crop damage. But, as the USDA official in the article points out, there are other non-lethal alternatives such as netting and electric fencing. Such prophylactic measures are oftentimes more effective than killing a portion of the deer population.
Barton Hills is ramping up its deer-thinning efforts just as broader trends appear to suggest a decline in the local whitetail population. In fact, according to the DNR, the deer population in the Southern Lower Peninsula of Michigan has been steady or declining over the past 5 to 10 years. The recent outbreak of the Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (deemed unthreatening to humans) has lead some to predict an even steeper drop in whitetails.
Enlisting federal officials to conduct a sophisticated deer-execution operation using baiting techniques and high-powered rifles with silencers cannot be the best answer to Barton Hills’ deer “problem.” Zero Dark Thirty was an entertaining movie, but we don’t need a reenactment in Ann Arbor Township just because someone’s shrubs are being eaten.
Jarrett Dieterle is a law student and Ann Arbor Township resident. His family owns a farm just north of Barton Hills that originally was purchased by his grandfather in 1938.