An Update on Deer Sterilization Efforts in Michigan

By Bow StaffApril 12, 20182 Comments

Beginning in late January of 2017, the city of Ann Arbor funded a two-part deer management plan which included deer sterilization of over 50 deer, and the harvesting of over 100 with the use of hired sharpshooters. The idea was part of the city’s deer management plan to reduce deer numbers within urban areas. In a Facebook post by the Michigan DNR, they admitted “some communities experience deer conflicts in areas where hunting or sharpshooting are not options to safely remove deer, and are therefore faced with considering only nontraditional solutions to resolve these conflicts.” Ann Arbor’s deer sterilization research project is aimed to, “better understand a multi-faceted approach to resolve deer conflicts within urban communities.”

deer sterilization

Is the sterilization project as effective as hunting?

In the January 2017 Facebook post by the Michigan DNR, they maintain to believe that hunting is the most cost-effective way to manage deer in urban areas. However, it seems Ann Arbor officials have not been exhaustive in their efforts to involve citizens in their deer management process. Take for example Green Bay, Wisconsin. The city of Ashwaubenon, (for context, Lambeau Field is in Ashwaubenon city limits) recently approved an urban bow hunt where citizens of this area can hunt their backyards within 50 yards of a building structure, to reduce city deer numbers. Ann Arbor Michigan officials have yet to introduce such an aggressive plan to involve willing bow hunters. It should be noted, the sharpshooters hired by the city of Ann Arbor cannot harvest a deer unless it is 150 yards from any building.

2018 updates

On October 16, 2017, Ann Arbor city officials again approved a contract with White Buffalo, Inc. to be included in the city’s deer management program for the 2017-18 deer season. The season’s deer sterilization and sharpshooting of Ann Arbor deer was completed on January 31st by a special research permit issued by the Michigan DNR. From January 2-6, eighteen does were sterilized during the non-lethal phase. During the lethal phase, sharpshooters from White Buffalo, Inc. lethally took 115 deer from parks and natural areas at a cost of $200-400 per deer, per White Buffalo. The city has also taken additional measures to gauge the success of this program. They have implemented a study to review browse on Red Oak seedlings. The city claims Red Oak seedling browse is correlated with damage to gardens and flowers, except Red Oak browse is easier to measure and evaluate than damage to citizen’s flowers or gardens. The Red Oak regeneration project has provided officials some estimate of deer numbers. Ann Arbor officials are also working with citizens to implement deer-resistant gardening practices and review the locations of deer crossing signage throughout the city.

“I am not aware of any immediate impact in population size due to sterilization techniques…”

Although the city of Ann Arbor is taking measures beyond sharpshooting and sterilization, it appears they could be doing more to involve citizens so they could reduce costs. Chad Stewart is the Deer, Elk and Moose Management Specialist based in Lansing and he stated, “I am not aware of any immediate impact in population size due to sterilization techniques during this project after such a short time frame of only 2 years.” Stewart maintains that the Michigan DNR believes “hunters are the most cost efficient management tool.” Stewart made it clear the DNR has no intent of recommending sterilization in other parts of the state.

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