City likely to proceed with deer cull

Manistee City Council recently held a general consensus to move forward with a deer cull. (Courtesy Photo/DNR)

MANISTEE — Take a drive through Manistee, one might find a herd of deer roaming the streets or munching on plants around the neighborhood.

The deer population has been a hot topic in Manistee for many years.

In summer 2017, talk of considering a deer cull resurfaced at a Manistee City Council meeting. However, a final decision was not made due to unanswered questions and concerns.

On Tuesday, council held a general consensus to proceed with a $10,000 deer cull through the Department of Natural Resources and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). However, it is not a one-time cost and would be a multi-year process.

However, an official vote cannot be made at a work session.

“This is not a one year process; it is a multi-year process,” said Ed Bradford, financial chief officer. “You are really looking at $10,000 a year — it is significant.”

Council members were all in favor.

Exploring options 

In 2017, Manistee City Council revisited methods to reduce the deer herd at a work session on July 11.

Two consensuses were made at that time, starting with a discussion with local officials and then to explore additional areas safe to hold a deer cull using crossbows.

Former council member Mark Wittlieff introduced the issue at the July 11, 2017, meeting, and touched on the history of the deer cull. The issue came to light in 2014, when the deer population was a huge concern to residents.

“The reason I brought up the deer cull again is obvious — we are overrun by deer,” Wittlieff said, at the meeting. “City residents are losing hundreds and thousands of dollars in landscaping, due to an overabundance of deer in the city.”

On Oct. 21, 2014, council approved a cull with up to 50 permits issued by the DNR for the taking of deer by local law enforcement. However, on Jan. 6, 2015, the cull was rescinded by a council vote.

The USDA and the Michigan Municipal League advised the city to not proceed with the cull, within city limits due to safety reasons.

In addition, the MML, which carries the city’s insurance with Meadowbrook Insurance Group, would not carry the liability if deer were culled on property the USDA deemed unsafe.

Many options were explored in the past, including non-lethal methods to tranquilize or sterilize the deer. Not only were some options deemed unsafe, but Tim Kozal, City of Manistee Department of Public Safety director, said transplanting the deer is not allowed.

“We had council members ask in the past about tranquilizing and moving them, that is actually illegal in the DNR,” Kozal said. “If it happened in the past, it was not supposed to.”

Taking action

At Tuesday’s meeting, Kozal provided an overview on how the deer cull would work. He said the main problem in the past was finding residents who would grant permission to cull on their properties.

“One of the first things we had to do, according to the USDA, was try to get permission and that’s what we were having issues with,” he said. “The Manistee Golf and Country Club over on Cherry Street did give permission.”

A USDA biologist visited the golf course to scope out the area.

“He spent a full day here,” Kozal said. “He did map out an area which was Cherry Street, south of there, a little bit to the west of there and back in by the high school.”

Kozal said the cull does not come without a cost, and the number of deer that could be taken out is limited.

“Around four USDA employees, for three nights in Manistee would cost around $10,000 for them to take care of a minimum of 20 deer,” said Kozal. “The factors we look at is how many deer can you take out at any one time. We could have 40 deer sitting there, but once you start plucking away you are going to wind up having them scurry.”

If the city were to go above the 20-deer range, costs would add up and take longer to complete. The cost includes travel and lodging.

“This is something the police department cannot do, our insurance company will not cover us to do that,” Kozal said. “The areas that we do it in would all have to be permission granted, they said we can even go into neighborhoods if there’s permission. I am a little bit leery of that.”

More talk ahead

The next step is for the city to explore additional properties for the cull with the owner’s permission, find out a time frame, gather funds and continue planning with USDA.

Another hurdle the city must face is finding a place to process the deer, which would be another cost.

“This $10,000 is for the USDA to come in here to do this. The deer would have to go to a processor and a food bank,” Kozal said. “There’s still a lot of things to talk about. This is just the USDA’s cost.”

Mayor pro-tem Lynda Beaton suggested asking residents if they would like to volunteer to sponsor the processing of a deer. Council member Chip Goodspeed echoed her statement.

“I would like to think we could try to get people to sponsor the processing of the deer,” she said. “I would be happy to.”

Council members also asked about using crossbows, instead of firearms.

“I would recommend using a firearm,” said city manager Thad Taylor. “With a bow they are going to run and last thing you want is them laying on someone’s front porch.”

Council member Mick Szymanski said this is something that needs to be done soon, and will take awhile to see results.

“It’s only going to multiply,” he said. “We have created a haven where there are no predators and the deer population gets larger and larger. We have got to make a stand and start something.”

The funds for the cull would likely come from the city’s fund balance.

Right now, Taylor said the 2019-2020 budget is nearly halfway done. Despite that, he said it is possible to add funds for the cull to the upcoming 2019-2020 budget.

“We will make it happen,” Taylor said.

City staff is moving forward with the USDA, but there are more discussions ahead before anything is offical.

avatar

Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

Leave a Reply