EAST LANSING, Mich. — From now through March 1, East Lansing will be closing its city parks intermittently in the evenings so that sharpshooters can reduce the local deer population.
It's the city’s first population reduction attempt.
Under an agreement with USDA Wildlife Services, biologists trained in the use of firearms will kill up to 50 deer total in Abbot Road Park, the East Lansing Family Aquatic Center/Softball Complex, Harrison Meadows Park, Henry Fine Park, White Park, Burcham Park and Patriarche Park.
Catherine DeShambo, environmental services administrator for the city, said 32 deer already have been removed after just one evening of closing the parks.
“Knowing that we’re more than halfway to...the amount of deer we’re allowed in our permit, we’re very pleased to know that we may only need one or two more evenings in order to be successful with this operation,” DeShambo said.
For residents’ safety, it will be unlawful to enter or remain in the parks when they are closed for the deer cull.
The city started research and outreach for the deer management project in 2011 with online public opinion surveys that continued until 2019.
Roberta Howard-Hunter, who lives in East Lansing, is in favor of the project.
“I relocated here from New Jersey, which has a huge deer population density problem. We had way too many deer. And so, I see what the end result can be of letting a population get out of hand,“ Howard-Hunter said.
DeShambo said that, on average, East Lansing experiences 40 deer-vehicle accidents per year.
“And then when I saw that chronic wasting disease in the deer herds in two nearby townships, that sort of sealed the deal for me, because that is an awful way for a deer to die,” Howard-Hunter said.
DeShambo said chronic wasting disease hasn't been detected in East Lansing, but, because meat from the deer will be donated to Greater Lansing Food Bank, precautions will be taken.
The city plans to survey residents and monitor deer herds and deer-vehicle accidents to measure the success of the deer cull.
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