Reestablishing the balance Humans have drastically changed the environment by removing predators and are now at the top of the food chain. We need to take responsibility to reestablish the ecological balance. Communities around the country have put annual hunts in place to manage deer population, and provide local food pantries with much needed protein for poor families. Regulated hunting makes the coexistence of humans and wildlife sustainable. Washtenaw Citizens for Ecological Balance Impacts of Deer Overpopulation Mission: To promote awareness and discussion of the importance of biodiversity in our community and the threats that over abundant species pose to ecological balance. For more information go to: www.wc4eb.org A balanced ecosystem ensures that many species of animal life can prosper. Photo by Anna Fiedler. The City of Ann Arbor is currently considering deer management options in partnership with the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission, the University of Michigan, the Humane Society of Huron Valley, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. 9/14 Managing the white-tailed deer population in Washtenaw County Deer overpopulation Across the country, there are too many white-tailed deer. It’s the same in Washtenaw County. The current density of deer is now estimated by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to be many times the ideal for a balanced ecosystem. Deer damage landscaping plants and crops at considerable expense to homeowners and farmers. They also over-browse woodland plants which removes the food and shelter for hundreds of other species. Favoring one species at the expense of others results in an imbalance which threatens entire ecosystems. Deer/vehicle collisions result in injuries and deaths of both humans and deer —and raise insurance rates. Driving in deer country requires constant watchfulness. Deer also carry ticks that can transmit Lyme disease which has been on the rise in Southeastern Michigan. This level of population is also not healthy for the deer. Deer at this population density are more susceptible to disease, malnutrition, and injury—that is why communities across the country have annual hunts to manage their deer population. Why so many deer? Hunting is limited: Most land in Southeastern Michigan is in private hands and hunting is prohibited in the towns and cities. Predator removal: The grey wolf has been eradicated in the lower peninsula. Changing habitat: The steady transformation of woodlands, into farms and suburban developments, has made ideal habitat for deer. They thrive where there are lawns, bird feeders, vegetable gardens, and ornamental plants and trees. High Fertility: Deer reproduce at very high rates. Females can give birth in their first year. A controlled study at the George Preserve (U. of Mich.) showed that a population of 6 deer became 160 deer in five years! The growth curve after that goes exponential (see chart, below). What can be done? Any population solution must maintained over the long-term. Deterrents like fencing and repellants do not address the larger issue. Contraceptives for free-moving deer herds are not legal in Michigan— neither is trap and release. Sterilization is an expensive option (>$1000/deer) and difficult to administer to free-moving herds. It does not change the current population, just the growth curve. Culling the deer herd reduces the population, directly lessening the impact to forest and garden. This conversation can be difficult for communities as deer are beautiful animals, but the environmental, health, and social impacts from deer overpopulation are too great to ignore.
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