Carpenter Lake Nature Preserve has come to be one of the more affected areas in Southfield due to the overpopulation of deer. The deer have destroyed the understory of the forest, making it hard for the growth of the forest to progress.

Carpenter Lake Nature Preserve has come to be one of the more affected areas in Southfield due to the overpopulation of deer. The deer have destroyed the understory of the forest, making it hard for the growth of the forest to progress.

Photo by Jacob Herbert


Southfield launches new Wildlife Advisory Commission

By: Jacob Herbert | Southfield Sun | Published December 22, 2020

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SOUTHFIELD — Deer have come to be one of the more popular wild animals to roam residential neighborhoods. While they can be nice to look at, they can also cause damage and destruction to home gardens, nature preserves and even motor vehicles.

The deer population in the city has led the Southfield City Council to appoint a seven-member Wildlife Advisory Commission to help brainstorm ways to manage this issue. The City Council officially approved the formation of the commission back in June, but the commission had been under consideration months prior.

According to Southfield Mayor Ken Siver, the deer population started to spike roughly 20 years ago. Aerial counts of deer in the area in 2018 showed that 248 deer were spotted roaming. In 2019, that number increased to 279. There has not been a count done this year, but one is planned, provided there is enough snow on the ground. Spotters need to locate the deer by their tracks.

“All indications are that the wildlife population in Southfield will continue to increase,” Southfield Deputy City Administrator John Michrina said. “The commission’s sole focus on wildlife will allow it to fully research and recommend to council steps that can be taken to help ensure the health and safety of Southfield’s residents, guests and wildlife.”

The main objective of the commission will be to study the deer issue and make recommendations to the City Council. The city of Southfield has also been working closely with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to brainstorm solutions.

“One concern with the overpopulation of deer, the habitat suffers,” Siver said. “At Carpenter Lake, much of the understory has been destroyed. The deer have eaten the saplings and the younger trees, the bucks will rub their horns on. That girdles the tree and kills it. You also need an understory because that’s the natural progression of a forest,” Siver said of the layer of plant life under the main canopy of a forest.

In order to help control the deer population, the mayor explored giving the deer contraceptives. By preventing pregnancy in the female deer, the population can be controlled. The only issue is that the contraceptive transfers to humans if the deer is consumed.

The idea of a bow and arrow hunt on golf courses and nature preserves was explored. Siver said there’s willingness on the part of the Department of Natural Resources to extend bow and arrow season to allow that type of hunting in January.

While the commission continues to figure out ways to put an end to the rising deer and coyote population, the mayor noted how a regional approach to the issue may be best.

“Whatever comes out of this commission, we’re going to have to find neighboring communities,” Siver said. “Farmington Hills has expressed interest. Anything that Southfield would do, they would join us.”

Southfield and Farmington have tributaries of the Rouge River. The deer follow those tributaries and work their way into local neighborhoods.

Since the commission is new, their inaugural tasks will be operational. Selecting a chairperson and setting a meeting schedule are the first orders of business.

The members of the commission are Myron Frasier, Tiffany Gotcher, Jenelle Konstam, Michele Merritt, Joel Milinsky, Jennifer Ormond and David Sheaffer.

“I was a council person for about 25 years until I retired in October of 2019. Yet I felt that I still wanted I to give back to the city of Southfield,” said Frasier. “While I was on council, the deer problem became evident that something had to be done. In the city of Southfield, it’s divided. About half the people love deer and about half the people want deer gone because they’re eating up their flowers and all that kind of stuff. I volunteered because I could give back to the city of Southfield and I felt that I would bring some information that I learned while I was on council that might help lead to a solution to what our wild animal problem is.”

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