The Ann Arbor City Council heard a presentation last night from the Humane Society of the United States about how they want to artificially sterilize wild, free-ranging Ann Arbor deer. You see, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is an anti-hunting organization that tries to prevent, stop and ban hunting in whatever form they think they can get away with. And Ann Arbor residents have recognized that there are too many deer for the available habitat in some parts of the city, prompting the deer to congregate en masse in some residents’ flower gardens and degrading natural vegetation in the city’s natural areas. So HSUS thinks that by artificially sterilizing deer, they can prevent an expansion of hunting into an area where it’s not currently allowed, even though it’s needed.
The city council will hear more public comments at their next meeting. Officials with the city have recommended a deer cull after a series of public meetings. As a resident of Ann Arbor, I attended one of those meetings in February and suggested that they use volunteer bowhunters, similar to the Meridian Township process. During the public comment section, I heard a lot of people talking about how “killing innocent animals” was not an Ann Arbor value, despite the fact that some of the people making those comments didn’t even live in Ann Arbor.
But the city’s deer cull plan – and the same would occur under a volunteer bowhunter program – calls for the meat from the culled deer to be donated to people who need it. An average deer can yield about 50 lbs of low-fat, high-protein venison. So that’s 200 servings of venison per deer that can be donated to people in our community who could really use it. The North American Model of Conservation relies on hunting to control excess wildlife populations, and this model for deer has been successful for the past century, allowing herds to recover and sustain themselves over a wide variety of habitats while providing the opportunity for citizens to harvest their own venison within limits established by professional biologists.
HSUS’s solution to artificially sterilize Ann Arbor deer is an unnatural alteration and a waste of free-ranging wildlife belonging to the people of the State of Michigan and managed in trust for us by the professional biologists at the Department of Natural Resources. For all the talk of “Ann Arbor values,” it’s shocking that this city, with a vibrant ecological and environmental community, surrounded by and containing numerous natural areas, would even consider a solution as unnatural as artificially altering the biology of free-ranging wildlife in our community. It points to a fundamental disconnect between people and nature that they don’t understand the interplay of predator-prey relationships in an ecological niche and that humans are a part of that system, not separate and distinct from it.
Despite HSUS’s unnatural proposal to waste and artificially alter our state’s natural resources, and regardless of the vote of the Ann Arbor City Council, the Department of Natural Resources is unlikely to authorize an artificial sterilization of free-ranging Michigan deer. The state’s Deer Management Plan, which is being updated this year, specifically calls for the DNR to pursue policies which encourage and allow the use of hunting, including archery hunting, to reduce urban and suburban deer conflicts. While the cost of artificial sterilization may by itself be a barrier to its adoption by the city, that’s really missing the point. The conservation community of Michigan will never allow a national anti-hunting group like HSUS to artificially alter the biology our free-ranging wildlife and waste the natural resources of the state.
It’s telling that HSUS hates hunting so much that they’re willing to deny 200 servings of healthy protein per deer to the area’s needy in order to artificially alter our wildlife through an expensive and impractical program. But who really expected anything else from them? Just remember that the next time they try to claim they’re not an anti-hunting group. But it’s not going to happen here. We won’t let it. Not in our state. Not with our wildlife. Not with Michigan’s deer.
If you live in Ann Arbor, email your city council representative here and tell them not to artificially alter Ann Arbor’s free-ranging wildlife! If you live elsewhere, be prepared: HSUS may be coming for your deer next.