Southfield is hosting a town hall on a ballot question for the upcoming November election about deer herd reduction.

Southfield is hosting a town hall on a ballot question for the upcoming November election about deer herd reduction.

File photo

Southfield to hold town hall ballot question for reduction of deer population

By: Mike Koury | Southfield Sun | Published September 8, 2022


SOUTHFIELD — The city of Southfield will be holding a town hall for an upcoming ballot question regarding deer herd reduction.

The Southfield Wildlife Advisory Commission’s deer herd reduction town hall will be held 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 22, in the auditorium of the Southfield Public Library, located at 26300 Evergreen Road.

The city has long had an issue with the local deer population. According to Mayor Kenson Siver, Southfield has as many as 80 deer per square mile, when it should be more around 20.

Siver stated that Southfield has received a high amount of complaints over the years about the number of deer and how they are ruining the landscape, but they’ve also gotten comments from people who don’t want the deer to be harmed.

This mixed reception led to the ballot question, which reads, “Do you support the reduction of the deer herd in the City of Southfield by humane, lethal means with the intent to engage local partners and ensure that donation of meat, deemed safe and where feasible, is made to local foodbanks and similar organizations?”

“The community is very split on this,” said Siver. “We want to take the temperature of community reaction to the idea of culling the herd or doing nothing.”

Siver said the town hall is to educate the public on why they would consider culling the deer herd. He also said the ballot question is about gauging the thoughts of the Southfield community and that, even if it passes, it doesn’t mean the city will follow through with the cull.

“This is just for us to get an idea of where the community stands with a non-binding vote,” he said.

A presentation will be made at the town hall by Chad Stewart, a deer, elk and moose management specialist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Stewart said he will be discussing deer management, deer population biology, the different management options that are available to Southfield if they decide to cull the herd, and the pros and cons associated with whether to cull or not.

“I really emphasize education and talking about deer and kind of doing what I think Southfield is doing is holding these sort of forums and getting an opportunity for people to voice their opinions so, at the end of the day, some sort of elected or appointed official has something to point towards to give them guidance based on the will of the community in terms of how they should proceed,” he said.

A hunt, contraception and sterilization were a couple of the culling methods Stewart said Southfield could pursue, and each one of those comes with a cost. With doing nothing, the cost, he said, might be the long-term cost of having deer in the community in terms of issues like forest health and landscaping.

“Each community has their own tolerances or thresholds in terms of what they can and can’t do,” he said. “Everything else from a pro/con discussion really revolves around what the goals of the community are trying to achieve. So that’s the other thing I tried to frame this as is, you know, what goal is the community trying to achieve by enacting one of these techniques? Because some techniques are better at achieving certain goals than other things, and that’s the most important thing to define.”

If Southfield does go through with a culling, it would not happen for quite some time as the city has to work with the MDNR on what to do. That could include a special bow and arrow hunt.

On whether or not they could move the deer to another location, Siver said that is not possible.

“(The MDNR) will not allow deer to be moved from one region of the state to another,” he said. “It’s because deer have diseases, and they don’t want to introduce them to other areas. Another (question) is what about contraceptives for deer? That is very, very expensive, and if you do a cull with a bow and arrow or a gun, the deer can be eaten. But they don’t advise eating deer that had a contraceptive.”