Southfield approves resolution on regional deer management plan

By: Mike Koury | Southfield Sun | Published October 7, 2021

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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SOUTHFIELD — The city of Southfield has had an issue with deer for some time, but a management plan with other Oakland County communities hopes to change that.

At its Sept. 27 meeting, the City Council approved a resolution seeking the establishment of a regional urban deer management plan for Oakland County. It followed in the footsteps of Farmington Hills, which passed its own the month before.

The resolution states that Southfield supports a “collaborative regional solution for the health and safety of its residents, their property and the deer herd in Oakland County.”

Mayor Ken Siver told the Southfield Sun that a deer cull between Farmington Hills and Southfield probably wouldn’t make a big difference because deer come from everywhere into the city, and that a regional solution is needed for this issue.

“We have been in a lot of discussions with Farmington Hills, and we’d like to do something, but we know that this is really a regional problem and that deer don’t respect regional boundaries,” Siver said.

Farmington Hills Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Boleware said that deer management is a “high priority,” but that there is nothing specific in place to deal with the issue.

“This is not a new subject; we’ve been talking about this since the last couple of years that I’ve been on council,” she said. “We were making some progress back (in) November and December of 2019, and then the pandemic came and undercut that movement. And now, we’re back to the point where we know that something has to be done because it’s eating so much of the vegetation that’s crucial for some of the environment and for the butterflies.”

Southfield’s action comes more than nine months after it created a seven-member Wildlife Advisory Commission to find ways to manage the city’s issue with deer, as well as other animals, such as coyotes.

According to the resolution, based on aerial counts conducted by the city, Southfield has concentrated deer populations of up to 85 deer per square mile. It also stated that, based on information from the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, Oakland County has consistently led the state in the number of car/deer crashes, totaling roughly 2,000 per year.

Siver stated the committee delivered a report to the council in August, and while it had nothing definitive, the biggest thing that came out for him was that there needed to be a period of education, because the community has been “very divided about the deer.”

The deer in Southfield, according to complaints Siver said he’s received, have been destroying property and devouring the understory — the layer of vegetation in a forest or wooded area that is between the tree canopy and the ground — in nature preserves. There also have been more animal rights-focused people who’ve shown concern about deer, and they have expressed a love of seeing the wildlife.

“The community’s very divided over this, but the wildlife committee has pointed out that the herd — because we’ve had mild winters‚ it really needs to be culled, because it’s not good for the deer either. In other words, overgrazing,” he said.

An education period, Siver said, was the main recommendation from the August report, and it’s something he felt is needed for the public.

“One of the things, for instance, (is) we have people that feed deer, and they shouldn’t do that,” he said. “That just encourages more deer.” Siver also added he will be recommending to council an ordinance that would prohibit people from feeding deer.

Siver said there have been numerous meetings with the DNR, and while the city won’t allow hunting in Southfield, the agency indicated to them they’d be open to discussing a bow and arrow hunt in January in the city’s woodlands and golf courses.

“We’re quite a ways away from that, and part of the education is that if we end up with a cull … part of the education is letting people know how many car-deer accidents we have, letting people know how it’s not good for the heard to be overpopulated, talk about things like Lyme disease, the ticks that deers carry,” he said.

“People said, ‘Can’t you just trap them and release them someplace else?’ Well no, the DNR doesn’t allow that because deer have diseases … and so consequently, they don’t want to introduce that to another location,” he said.

Staff writer Mark Vest contributed to this report.

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