FARMINGTON HILLS — About 10 residents attended the City Council’s Nov. 28 study session to talk about their views on the city’s deer population and whether the city should completely ban hunting within its borders.
“This has just become a safety issue to me. I have children; I have a big dog — I have woods behind me. When I heard about this, I just flipped out,” said resident Mary Ann Damman.
City Attorney Steve Joppich explained that the city can’t ban hunting without Department of Natural Resources approval, but the city could effectively end the practice with a stricter ban on the discharge of firearms, which he said the Michigan Supreme Court already decided is legal. Right now, the ban on discharging a firearm — and apparently a bow and arrow meets the city’s firearm definition — applies to platted subdivisions, parks, across roads and within 100 yards of any structure. Firing guns, specifically, is banned throughout the city.
“I think an immediate ordinance should be in place here and then go on for a hunting ban for Farmington Hills,” said Damman.
Farmington Hills police investigated October hunting reports in the Eight Mile and Orchard Lake Road area and determined the incidents were illegal because they did not meet the city’s conditions for discharging a firearm. There was not have enough evidence to prosecute two alleged hunters, but police feel the men have gotten the message to cease hunting.
Resident Kurt Brauer said Farmington Hills has places where hunting could be done safely, and he said the deer population is out of control. Farmington Hills Police Chief Chuck Nebus previously said that the car-deer crashes in Farmington Hills this year seem to be at an all-time high.
“I’m here to tell you, I think the rules are too restrictive because of the amount of deer that are in the city,” said Brauer. He contrasted hunting with car-deer accidents.
“I’d much rather somebody shoot a deer with a bow — and believe me, there are large pieces of property that can be effectively and ethically hunted in the city,” said Brauer.
He pointed out that the hunting that upset people was illegal.
“I hear a lot of things where people are already doing stuff that’s against the law. We don’t need a new law to address that. We need for the chief to, if it’s a priority, enforce existing laws,” said Brauer.
Damman said the city needs a stronger regulation, despite the documented incidents’ illegality and Nebus consistently discouraging hunting in the city due to safety concerns.
“There’s still going to be people that are going to say, ‘Oh, wow. We can do this.’ And they’re not going to consider children; they’re not going to consider domestic animals,” said Damman.
Bill Barnette lives near Nine Mile and Inkster roads, and asked if the city could relocate some of the deer.
“The area is being taken over by deer, and they’re doing a lot of damage,” said Barnette.
“The deer herd is ridiculous,” agreed Pamela Santo, who lives near 10 Mile and Middlebelt.
She said it is a safety issue for motorists. She also fears that a deer might charge her.
“Eliminate the deer. Cut the deer out. Get some people out here that know how to eliminate them,” said Santo.
City Manager Steve Brock said that dealing with deer in highly populated areas poses a problem. He noted that an attempt to cull the deer herd in Rochester Hills using Oakland County Sheriff’s deputies as sharpshooters ended amid huge public outcry.
“It’s a difficult challenge, and I don’t know that anyone has successfully dealt with it,” said Brock.
Nebus said that he hopes whatever decision council eventually makes will simplify the hunting issue.
“Because right now it’s so complicated, it’s even difficult for a police officer to respond to some of these situations,” said Nebus.
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