Southfield City Council approves deer monitoring service

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published May 10, 2017


SOUTHFIELD — To get a grasp on exactly how many deer inhabit the city, the Southfield City Council recently approved the implementation of a deer monitoring service. 

At an April 24 meeting, the council voted 5-2 to award a contract for deer monitoring services to Ann Arbor-based Nature Write. Councilman Donald Fracassi and Councilwoman Joan Seymour voted against the plan. 

The monitoring service will cost the city $35,000, City Administrator Fred Zorn said in a written statement in the council meeting’s agenda. Funds for the service are included in the 2016-17 budget, he said. 

Nature Write will monitor the deer at 10 sites throughout the city over a span of one year, according to council documents. 

According to council documents, there is currently an average of one deer-related car accident per week in Southfield, and city leaders have been working on a plan for several months to try to combat the issue. 

Council President Myron Frasier said the city will use Nature Write’s services to simply see how many deer inhabit the city. The city is not trying to control the deer population at this time, he said. 

“If you live in Southfield, you know we have a number of deer that are all over (the city),” Frasier said at the meeting. “What we’re trying to do is we’re trying to count the deer. We’re trying to find out the deer population. … I want to be explicitly clear: This is not an opportunity to reduce the herd. We are only trying to get a census of the number of deer we have.” 

Vehicle-deer crashes are a year-round problem, according to the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, but the state’s 2 million deer are most active in the spring and fall. Every year, there are nearly 50,000 vehicle-deer crashes reported in Michigan. Eighty percent of those, the organization said, occur on two-lane roads between dusk and dawn. 

White-tailed deer can be found in every Michigan county, according to the Department of Natural Resources’ website. Deer are able to adapt to many different types of land, which is why they are able to flourish in suburban areas. 

Zorn said in the minutes that the city has received numerous complaints about deer. In response to those complaints, a survey was sent out to Southfield homeowners and condominium owners associations in January. 

Through the survey, city officials learned that the majority of respondents enjoy having deer in the city but are worried about the issues the deer cause. 

Slightly less than half of respondents, Zorn said in the minutes, expressed concerns that the deer population may damage park ecosystems by overbrowsing on native plants. 

“(Nature Write) will come in and advise us what we should do to be able to count the number of deer we have, so we will know how to manage the deer herd as the years go on,” Frasier said. “Again, it’s just a matter of counting the deer. As they say in the movies, no deer were hurt in this process.”

Fracassi said he voted no on the item because of the price, and he feels that the service is unnecessary. 

“I know these people are experts in monitoring and looking for deer, but I think if you’re around the city of Southfield, you already know there’s quite a few deer,” Fracassi said at the meeting.