West Bloomfield Township Supervisor Steven Kaplan recently discussed various options for attempting to manage an overpopulation of deer in the township.

West Bloomfield Township Supervisor Steven Kaplan recently discussed various options for attempting to manage an overpopulation of deer in the township.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

West Bloomfield attempts to find solutions to deer overpopulation

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published October 7, 2021


WEST BLOOMFIELD — As has been the case in other communities, deer roaming the area has been a topic of discussion in West Bloomfield.

“Residents will call Town Hall inquiring what the township intends to do about the overpopulation of deer,” Township Supervisor Steven Kaplan said.

He said that over 20 deer per square mile is considered a concentrated deer population and that, “we’re probably exceeding the 20 deer-per-square-mile edict.”

Kaplan said that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is not providing services to local communities.

“In other words, a city, township or village is on its own in terms of dealing with a deer overpopulation area,” he said.

Kaplan discussed some action the township took Aug. 9.

“We passed a resolution unanimously at our board meeting,” he said. “The resolution is for the establishment of a regional urban deer management plan for the county of Oakland. … Farmington Hills is the one that launched the idea. That doesn’t mean the county is going to undertake a study or fashion a remedy for excessive deer, but the resolution is requesting that the county do so.”

At a Farmington Hills City Council meeting Aug. 9, it was unanimously resolved that the city supports a “collaborative regional solution for the health and safety of its citizens, their property and the deer herd in Oakland County.”

According to information sent by Farmington Hills Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Boleware, as of Feb. 12, 2020, the deer population in the city was reported to be 729, which was an increase of more than 300 from the year prior.

Part of the draft from the city’s Aug. 9 meeting states that, based on aerial counts, it is believed that Farmington Hills has a concentrated deer population of up to 80 deer per square mile.

Farmington Hills has also been looking for help beyond its city borders.

“It’s got to be a county-wide or regional approach to deer management, because we’re talking about animals that travel; they don’t see city boundaries,” said Farmington Hills Mayor Vicki Barnett. “We have to make sure that what we come up with is workable for the region, and I don’t think we’ve ever looked at this on a regional basis to the extent that we need to.”

Kaplan shared some insight into some ways the county could help.

“The main one would be that the county, for lack of a better term, would form a task force,” he said. “The county could convene a committee asking the state to send a representative — maybe a college professor, maybe township supervisors and mayors.”

According to Kaplan, there are two primary complaints coming from residents in relation to the deer population.

“‘My car was almost struck by a deer,’ or, ‘I almost struck a deer; I had to swerve and I could’ve lost control of my vehicle. If that deer had hit my bumper, it might’ve flown into my windshield and killed me,’” he said.

Kaplan elaborated on that concern.

“People are upset; that’s a danger,” he said. “And it’s unpredictable. You can’t prevent it unless you (want to) drive 5 miles per hour down Orchard Lake Road or Maple Road, where you can evade the deer quickly.”

Kaplan said that, in Oakland County, there are approximately 2,000 collisions or crashes every year involving a deer and a motor vehicle — and that a motorcyclist who hit a deer in the township was recently hospitalized with serious injuries but survived.

He addressed the other most common deer-related complaint in West Bloomfield.

“The second complaint is, ‘The deer upset my garden. I had a garden where I was growing carrots, peaches, apples, and the deer devoured the food and caused an upheaval in my garden,’” he said. “Some people are upset about that.”

One option for controlling the deer population is to find a cluster of them and have the police shoot them. However, he said, “That is not going to happen in West Bloomfield.”

Kaplan said the township has also not spent money on or agreed to having the deer culled, where they would be lured or transported to a safe area and exterminated.

The township is also not likely to place poison in areas where deer are known to proliferate.

“The problem with that is other animals could consume the poison, and they also would reach their demise. So, that’s not a good solution,” Kaplan said.

Kaplan said the sterilization approach has not been known to go very well.

“Ann Arbor used a surgical sterilization approach, but you’re talking about a wild animal and an invasive procedure,” said Farmington Hills Council Member Ken Massey. “Ultimately, they ended up with infections. A (fast) death is better than a slow death. … So, that surgical option gets taken off the table (for Farmington Hills).”

There is an option for controlling the deer population that Kaplan thinks is a “common sense one.”

He said there are more deer in residential neighborhoods than there were five to 10 years ago, with part of the reason being, “People in good faith wanting to feed the deer.”

“If residents would cease feeding deer or leaving food out for deer, then there would be fewer deer meandering in residential areas,” Kaplan said. “Deer have amazing memories, and they’ll remember where they had (their) last meal. There are people with good intentions — they love the deer, the deer are cute; they leave food in the backyard, and the deer (go) over toward the food, they eat it, and that causes a concentration of deer in the neighborhoods. … That would reduce the deer population, at least in the neighborhood, if people wouldn’t leave food for the deer.”

Of the options, Kaplan said, “that’s the only one that is reasonable and not barbaric.”

Barnett discussed an issue that has arisen in Farmington Hills as a result of the eating habits of deer.

“When they eat all of the plants that they’re eating, they clear-cut the ground cover, and that now opens up the prey that lives in the ground cover — small squirrels, chipmunks and possum — to attacks by coyotes, so our coyote population is growing, as well, because predators are moving in to take advantage of the clear-cut areas,” she said. “And it’s changing the biosphere. That’s probably one of the biggest issues here. How do we deal with deer management in a fairly urban community, and how do we do it well?”

Massey provided an explanation as to why local communities are attracting deer.

“The city of Novi, the city of Livonia, West Bloomfield Township, Southfield — we all share the same problems,” he said. “It is a regional issue because our environment supports the deer population; we’ve got a lot (of) food for them and no natural enemies. … Whether or not that means all the cities do it at the same time, what have you, it’ll become a regional approach.”