After more than an hour and a half of heated discussion over both sides of the debate, Grand Haven City Council voted 3-2 Monday night to move forward with a deer cull in the city.
Those voting for the cull were Mayor Geri McCaleb and councilmen Dennis Scott and Josh Brugger, according to the Grand Haven Tribune. Opposing the cull were councilmen Bob Monetza and Mike Fritz.
"It follows what we unanimously voted for in 2008," Brugger said, referencing the 2008 Urban Deer Management Plan, which has several triggers that would implement a cull if necessary. "The deer committee in 2008 said if any of these are met, a deer cull is recommended."
The approved resolution cites an increase in the numbers of car/deer crashes, the current number (30) of deer per square mile exceeds the level established by the 2008 Urban Deer Management Plan of 28, eight reported human Lyme disease cases in Ottawa County exceeds the threshold of six cases in a prior year, and overgrazing on dunes has degraded the environment and spread invasive species as reasons for a cull.
The resolution also cites complaints filed with the city about deer, including damage to private property, deer feces on sidewalks and in private yards, and deer ticks on children and pets. So far this year, the city has fielded five complaints about deer.
Brugger, who penned the resolution to cull deer, brought numerous photographic examples of deer and deer-related damage in the city.
"I'm very much in favor of a deer cull," he said.
McCaleb also weighed in on her support of the cull.
"There's nothing more beautiful than to watch a graceful deer, but I also favor balance," she said.
McCaleb said she had a number of concerns about the abundance of deer in the community, including damage they’ve done to the dunes and forest undergrowth, as well as with public health concerns due to deer feces in yards and sidewalks.
"We have no other answer than to keep the number under control because we live in a city," she said.
McCaleb also noted that the city isn't the only Michigan community dealing with the issue, citing communities such as Ann Arbor, Dearborn, Rochester Hills and Hillsdale.
The Associated Press recently reported that Ann Arbor could end up spending over $258,000 on deer management efforts next year.
Monetza and Fritz were critical of the deer cull plan.
“This resolution is the opposite of what we need and deserves no support,” Monetza said.
Monetza questioned the data provided by city officials that was used as a basis for the cull plan, which included traffic crash and Lyme disease cases, as well as information from the state Department of Natural Resources about the number of deer per square mile.
“No effort has been made to gather objective information since fall 2013,” he said.
Monteza also noted that, given the public divisiveness of the last cull, the triggers needed to be addressed.
“The triggers need to be more compelling than they are,” he said.
Fritz said: "I'm not in favor of any kind of culling, whatsoever. The last time we did this, it was a very divisive thing."
Fritz was also critical of the report from city administration that provided an update on the status of deer in the community.
"This report is terrible — it's the worst thing I've ever seen," he said.
Fritz said he wanted to see more specific information about the city and its deer population, instead of data that referenced Ottawa County.
"We don't have anything in this (report) here that is concrete evidence," he said.
Opinions were just as divided among the city residents in the audience of Monday’s council meeting.
Mark Hills, a resident in support of the cull, said: "The deer are on the verge of being tame in this community.”
Hills said that the deer seen in the city don’t exhibit the same behavior that typical deer in the wild show, and also noted concerns about car/deer collisions and deer feces around neighborhoods.
"Hostas are nice, but that is not as important as the health, safety and welfare of those in the community," he said.
Others wanted to see the city go a different direction.
John Hierholzer said he didn't think Grand Haven should be culling deer based on the report given by the city. He said the report doesn't support the resolution that was made.
"Culling deer is one of the most divisive issues in our community, pitting neighbor against neighbor," he said.
Hierholzer said he wanted to see a proper scientific study done to address the deer population.
"If you're going to address this, give it a proper study first before you reach a conclusion," he said.
Hierholzer also said he favors non-lethal efforts, such as the use of deer contraception, to manage the city’s deer population.