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City approves educational campaign to warn against feeding deer

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published June 22, 2016

 This sign posted in Oakview Cemetery displays the same message city officials are trying to spread: Do not feed the deer.

This sign posted in Oakview Cemetery displays the same message city officials are trying to spread: Do not feed the deer.

Photo by Victoria Mitchell

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ROYAL OAK — City officials have an important message they want to spread: Do not feed the deer.

Members of the Royal Oak City Commission decided unanimously during the June 13 meeting that the best way to handle the surge in deer population is to wage a public information campaign telling residents to abstain from feeding the animals.

Kayla Barber-Perrotta, city of Royal Oak management analyst and grant coordinator, said the city also plans to educate residents living in highly populated areas on what to plant and not to plant on their properties with the help of English Gardens and Michigan State University.

English Gardens will offer a seminar in July on deer and gardening.

“That would include information regarding better planting decisions,” Barber-Perrotta said. “It would also include information on different repellents.”

Residents spoke out before the City Commission that night talking about deer coming into their yards to defecate, breed and eat their flowers and gardens.

Resident Linda Tuomaala spoke about a fawn born behind her backyard bushes, an eight-point buck walking through her yard and multiple deer eating her trillium, which is a protected wildflower in Michigan.

Tuomaala said she used to have about 40 trillium blooms four years ago, which went down to only two or three, and through the past couple of years she’s worked her way back up to about 20.

“It may not sound important, but this is one small thing that is happening all over Michigan with the deer,” she said. “We’re not allowed to have cows, horses, or chickens in our yard, but these deer are not wild as they are up north.”

Tuomaala said you could ask residents not to feed them, but she believes there will be those that do, and then the problem won’t go away.

Other residents spoke about the same problems, focusing mainly on a surge in population at Oakview Cemetery at Main Street and Rochester Road.

Residents said the deer population at the cemetery has increased since people started feeding the deer.

Resident Judith Harvey lives near the cemetery and has lived there for nearly 52 years.

Harvey said that last year was the first year she really started to see a problem.

“We woke up one morning last summer and all of our hostas across the front of our porch had been eaten by the deer,” she said, adding that many nearby residents’ flowers are breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Barber-Perrotta estimates there are about 30 deer in Oakview Cemetery.

“From my understanding, that’s about double what it was 10 years ago,” she said. “In speaking with the DNR, their thoughts on that is that’s largely because they’ve been having supplemental feeding and reproducing.”

Resident Brad Cochran runs a company that provides flowers at Oakview Cemetery. He said that in the last few years, he has witnessed an explosion in the white-tailed deer population, not only in the cemetery, but throughout Royal Oak.

“They aren’t Bambi,” he said. “They are eating, they are crapping and they are reproducing machines, and they are a problem, and they are going to continue to be a problem in the city of Royal Oak.”

Cochran said he doesn’t personally advocate for culling, but he believes it is the practical way to take care of the problem from the research he’s done through the Department of Natural Resources.

“Again I’m not advocating it. I’m just saying that it is the only thing that they can do, the only thing they said they can do, to manage this problem,” he said.

Cochran said deer cannot be removed from a location because of inbreeding and the domestication that occurs once they start feeding from humans.

He also is concerned with health issues, including ticks spreading Lyme disease.

“It’s a health and safety issue,” he said.

Barber-Perrotta said her discussions with the DNR revealed there has been no correlation with deer and the transfer of Lyme disease in Oakland County.

Other residents spoke on behalf of the deer, saying that killing them isn’t the answer.

“I sort of like to be their voice for this,” said resident Monika Sipe. “I prefer the nonviolent options.”

Barber-Perrotta said culling is not recommended by staff either.

“Experts across the country agree that culling is not the end-all, be-all solution,” she said. “There is a reason that the deer are there. The reason is they were able to find an easy food source and if you don’t address that, you’re going to be facing the same problem over and over again.”

Mayor Pro Tem Michael Fournier agreed.

“I really don’t think we’re going to shoot our way out of this problem,” he said. “I think the ultimate issue is addressing the food source.”

Fournier asked city administration to also look at attaching monetary fines to feeding.

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