Ann Arbor will continue onward into their five-year deer management program that began in 2015 after city managers were asked to examine the literally growing problem of the deer herd in and around the city throughout Washtenaw County.
Many members of the public spoke at this week’s Ann Arbor City Council meeting warning of the dangers to the public and the damage that would be done to public nature and park areas by the deer population. Some speakers claimed going passive on the deer problem would result in the doubling of the deer population within two years.
Ultimately the council voted to not pull $260,000 in funding previously earmarked for deer management in the 2018 fiscal year budget.
That money would have gone towards increasing funding for the city’s climate action program from $165,000 to $295,000 in fiscal year 2018.
The remaining $130,000 would have gone towards boosting the general fund engineering expenditure budget which in part supports pedestrian and cyclist safety planning and design.
Pedestrian safety related projects receive $2.2 million including $1 million for projects specific to Ann Arbor Public Schools.
The funding levels for both of these priorities are “not sufficient to meet resident demand,” according to sponsors of this budget amendment proposal, which includes Mayor Christopher Taylor and Council-members Chip Smith and Jason Frenzel.
Those three sponsors were the only votes in favor of the measure, which failed due to the authors of the amendment failing to convince council colleagues Jack Eaton, Graydon Krapohl, Chuck Warpehoski, Sumi Kailasapathy, Kirk Westphal, Jane Lumm, Julie Grand, and Zachary Ackerman.
“The conversations we’ve had about deer management is ongoing and lots has been written and spoken about it … I doubt today’s conversation is will change many minds,” Taylor said, perhaps sensing that the measure didn’t have the votes it would need to pass.
“I just don’t think we should be doing it,” he added. “I think we have better things to do with that money.”
Smith acknowledged the public safety concerns of lime disease and ticks and other consequences of the deer population increasing, but said that in his mind environmental and public safety concerns are higher on the list of priorities.
“We have made very little progress towards our climate action goals,” Smith explained, singling out the city’s impact up-to-now on reducing local greenhouse gas production.
“Is that more worthy than preserving our natural areas and natural systems from the overpopulation of deer? Unfortunately, I think that’s a value judgement we have to make,” he continued.
Frenzel said he looked elsewhere for money to cut to boost climate control funding. He said that Ann Arbor could and should “do its part” to “overcome the national government not doing what it’s part could be right now” in the area of environmental matters.
Grand questioned how developed the programs that the $260,000 from deer management would have been shifted to are currently, while deer management has been ongoing for two years and has seen solid results in that time.
“I can’t support (cutting deer management) because I think it’s irresponsible to throw the funding that we’ve put in the last two years towards deer management,” she explained. “We know where the deer are (now), and we know how to control them.”
Kailasapathy said she saw deer management as part of the larger environmental program, and as such cutting from that to shift funding to climate action would result in no net positive gain for the city and its residents in the broader topical context of improving the environment locally.
Lumm expressed concern about the “significant” damage to public natural areas and parks that would be wrought by an unchecked local deer herd. She also said that private property damage and fatalities and injuries from deer-car collisions are “areas of primary concern.”
Westphal said he believed that the whitetail deer population was a greater immediate threat to environmental concern in Ann Arbor than climate change, which isn’t going away on its own and becomes a greater challenge the longer it goes unopposed by human efforts.
“They’re a problem that gets exponentially more expensive to manage,” he explained. “They’ll be adding 150 more to the herd this year. It’s like our pavement management program. It just gets more expensive every year that we ignore the issue.”
Eaton said he wanted to see the deer management program through a full five-year cycle without pause of interruption.
Krapohl said that he believes deer management needs to be broadened to wildlife management in the coming years.
“As you have greater density and urbanization, you have more animals, wild animals, coming into the city because it’s safe, there are food sources whether domestic pets or not, (and) you’re going to have greater negative interactions between humans and wild animals.”
Krapohl added that he doesn’t believe that effort will ever be one that can be contracted to outside companies at a low cost. It will be the city’s responsibility to develop a program to solve those sorts of issues internally going forward.
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