26 parks and nature areas to close daily at 4 p.m. during Ann Arbor deer cull

By Ryan Stanton | ryanstanton@mlive.com
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on December 16, 2015 at 5:40 AM, updated December 16, 2015 at 10:20 AM

Restrictions on usage of more than two dozen Ann Arbor parks and nature areas are set to take effect for the next three months as the city begins a controversial deer cull.Starting Jan. 1, that means no more late-afternoon, evening or early-morning visits to some of the city’s most popular parks and nature areas until April.

The city has announced the following 26 parks and nature areas will be closed from 4 p.m. to 7 a.m. daily from Jan. 1 to March 31 while sharpshooters kill up to 100 deer.

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Parks and nature areas in Ann Arbor that will close daily from 4 p.m. to 7 a.m. from Jan. 1 through March 31 while the city carries out a deer cull.
  • Arbor Hills Nature Area
  • Argo Nature Area
  • Bandemer Nature Area
  • Barton Nature Area
  • Bird Hills Nature Area
  • Black Pond Woods Nature Area
  • Bluffs Nature Area
  • Braun Nature Area
  • Cedar Bend Nature Area
  • Dhu Varren Woods Nature Area
  • Foxfire South Nature Area
  • Foxfire West Nature Area
  • Furstenberg Nature Area
  • Huron Parkway Nature Area
  • Kuebler Langford Nature Area
  • Leslie Park Golf Course
  • Leslie Woods Nature Area
  • Narrow Gauge Nature Area
  • Oakridge Nature Area
  • Oakwoods Nature Area
  • Olson Park
  • Onder Nature Area
  • Ruthven Nature Area
  • South Pond Nature Area
  • Stapp Nature Area
  • Traver Creek Nature Area

Amid much controversy and protests by animal rights advocates, the City Council voted 10-1 in November with Mayor Christopher Taylor opposed to hire the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, also known as USDA-APHIS, to carry out the cull at a cost of up to $35,000.

City officials said USDA-APHIS has trained sharpshooters on staff who have experience safely culling deer in urban areas.

The city’s goal is to decrease complaints from residents about deer, including damage to landscaping and gardens, and to support biological diversity in natural areas where city officials believe deer are damaging the ecosystem.

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Members of a group called FAAWN, standing for Friends of Ann Arbor Wildlife in Nature, hold up “stop the shoot” signs at the City Council’s meeting on Dec. 7, 2015.

Council members who support the cull have faced recall threats from a group called Save the Deer Ann Arbor, which considers the cull an unnecessary slaughter.Members of another group called FAAWN, standing for Friends of Ann Arbor Wildlife in Nature, also showed up to the City Council’s most recent meeting to protest the cull, advocating for nonlethal methods to control the deer population.

A survey done by the city found 43 percent of residents are against using lethal methods, and 48 percent are specifically against bringing in sharpshooters.

An aerial survey earlier this year counted 168 deer in and around the city, mostly on the north and east sides of town where the culling is set to take place.

The Humane Society of Huron Valley, which is continuing its “stop the shoot” campaign, organized a showing of the documentary “EXPOSED: USDA’s Secret War on Wildlife” Tuesday night in Ann Arbor.

Tanya Hilgendorf, Humane Society president, said everyone she has spoken with is shocked by the scope of the cull. She questions the need for daily closures in 26 parks and nature areas for the next three months.

“I have seen no community do it like this,” she said. “These parks are right next to homes, in my own neighborhood, where people walk and jog, where people walk their dogs, where kids play and teens hang out.”

Hilgendorf said she remains concerned about the safety implications, and she doesn’t see the justification for the cull.

“All we have are wildlife that eat plants, and there are cheap and easy ways to address those concerns,” she said.

“Rochester Hills remains a great example of an effective, inexpensive and nonlethal approach that their citizens consider a success. This cost to taxpayers, threats to safety, and damage to community cohesion have no justification.”

City officials said cull sites were chosen based on public safety, size and shape of properties, terrain, surrounding land use and housing density, proximity to neighbors, ease of access, and attractiveness of the location for deer.

According to a news release from the city, USDA-APHIS personnel are wildlife biologists and wildlife specialists trained to kill deer using a single shot.

Signage will be posted at the entrances of impacted parks and nature areas to notify visitors of closures.

Residents living near designated parks or nature areas will be informed of the closures directly via postcard.

The city also plans to use social media, Community Television Network, the city’s website and email notifications to inform citizens.

Taylor, who has opposed the cull because of a lack of community consensus, said last week he believes the cull will follow strict safety procedures, and any venison that’s suitable for consumption will be donated to a local food bank.

In August, the City Council approved a deer management plan that includes culling deer on city property in wards 1 and 2 each year for the next four years.

Sabra Sanzotta, organizer for Save the Deer Ann Arbor, said she’ll be filing a lawsuit against the city to challenge the culls.

The city has answered frequently asked questions about the cull in a document available at www.a2gov.org/deermanagement.

Ryan Stanton covers the city beat for The Ann Arbor News. Reach him at ryanstanton@mlive.com.

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