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City of Muskegon approves deer cull to curb population

Residents at the city commission meeting voiced both their support and opposition to the deer cull.

MUSKEGON, Mich. — Muskegon's City Commission voted unanimously to approve a deer cull to curb the population in the city's Beachwood and Bluffton neighborhoods. 

A 2019 study conducted by Muskegon's Department of Public Works determined between 50 and 100 deer are in the city's Beachwood and Bluffton neighborhoods. 

The study was the result of complaints from residents about the growing number of deer damaging landscaping around homes. It showed more than 60 percent of residents were in favor of the city taking some action.

However some residents voiced their opposition during Tuesday's city commission meeting. Derek Olsen described a hike he took on Christmas Day where he saw three "beautiful, majestic deer," which he said were a key part of the protected natural resources of Old Bronson Park. 

"For me, when I'm hiking, encountering wildlife is a highlight. I don't understand who has the big problem," he said. "I just think if you decide to live on the barrier between nature and the city, sometimes you run into neighbors—which is these deer." 

Similarly both Paul and Sharon Sikkenga spoke out against the cull. Paul said there are better ways to address the population issues.

"One of the issues that I have, and it touches my heart, is to think that you're going to do this to the deer, said Sharon Sikkenga. She said she was concerned about the cull killing pregnant does. 

The city said it will plan on doing the cull over four to five nights in February. 

Two residents also spoke out about their support of the cull. 

"I think just to have a lower population, I think people would still see deer on a regular basis," said Jeff Hopkins. He said the damage from the deer costs him anywhere from $1,500 to $2,000 in damages. 

Mike McFall also supports the cull, saying he understands it's an emotional issue but he has deer in his yard daily. 

"The deer have exploded beyond the carrying capacity of our area. That's why they're eating everything in sight," McFall said. "Overpopulation creates an unhealthy herd."

The city is prepared to contract with the United States Department of Agriculture. USDA sharpshooters would set bait stations in safe areas, record deer activity, study the herd's patterns, then systematically shoot and kill approximately 30 deer.

A damage and nuisance control permit from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) for Urban Deer Management is needed for the cull.

"We will monitor the results and see what ultimately we decide to do moving forward," said Mayor Stephen Gawron. "It's an action not an ultimate answer."

The dead deer would be turned over to the non-profit group Sportsmen Against Hunger. The state group would cover the cost of having the deer process with the venison offered to Muskegon area food pantries, or food assistance programs.

The cull could cost the city between $12,000 and $20,000. 

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