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The Biggest Cull

Park closures let sharpshooters target 250 deer.

by James Leonard

From the January, 2018 issue

Sixteen city parks and six U-M properties will close daily from 3 p.m. to midnight January 8-January 31, and the Nichols Arboretum will close for the same hours on January 9, 16, 19, and 23. While they're off-limits to humans, hired sharpshooters will kill up to 250 deer. For a map and schedule, see

That's more deer than the city targeted in its two previous culls combined. Why? "There are more than we initially anticipated," says mayor Christopher Taylor--CFO Tom Crawford says staff estimate there are 450 in deer-friendly wards 1 and 2, based on aerial surveys and ground cameras. "Staff recommends the increased cull to adjust the curve on deer population to put us in maintenance mode rather than reduction mode," says Taylor.

Even so, the mayor has voted against the cull three years running. "I still think that shooting and killing in the park is contrary to the ethos of the town," he says. But this year, Taylor was alone in opposition--even Chip Smith, who opposed the first two culls, voted for it this time. "My vote didn't matter," he explains in an email. "The votes were there to proceed."

The first cull triggered multiple protests and lawsuits plus three anti-cull council candidates. The lawsuits failed, and none of the candidates got elected. Last year the one anti-cull candidate didn't get elected. According to a survey the city commissioned from MSU last summer, what Taylor once described as "the most divisive issue in my time in serving the public" now has a 73 percent approval rating.

If this year's goal is met, the local herd will be greatly reduced. Crawford emails that staff "won't know what maintenance level looks like until after we complete our analysis of this year's program"--but future culls will almost certainly be smaller.    (end of article)

[Originally published in January, 2018.]


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