Photo courtesy of umd.typepad.com
Photo courtesy of umd.typepad.com
Photo courtesy of umd.typepad.com

By KRISTY GREER, Guest Writer

Thirty-four deer near the Environmental Study Area were shot to death during the break as part of an effort to thin an exploding deer population.

According to university officials, the deer population has increased by one-third since January of last year. An aerial survey showed 76 deer in the area last month, up from 57 a year ago. The state’s Department of Natural Resources says the number of deer in an area that size should be between five and 10.

After stops at the Dearborn City Council, Wayne County, and other agencies, the university got permission to conduct a shoot between the hours of 4 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday of break.

Full-time staff was notified of the culling via email. Henry Ford College was also informed, along with the Henry Ford Estate. University officials decided against a mass e-mail involving students, because students weren’t expected on campus.  However during the weekend they noticed there were students at the library, so faculty and staff were clued in.

“Unfortunately,” said Ken Kettenbeil, vice chancellor of External Relations, “you could hear gunshots which sounded like fireworks.”

Many safety measures were instituted through a “multi-unit collaboration.”  A sweep was done of the grounds before the wildlife professionals were allowed in the area. Experts stood on tree stands shooting downward to avoid any potential stray bullets.

Earlier that month, the Environmental Interpretive Center explained the need of maintaining a smaller deer population. Dr. David Susko, an associate professor of biology and director of the center, says long term forest dynamics are put at risk when species such as the deer roam the campus in large numbers. The deer, who have no active predators in the area, are consuming beneficial species at an alarming rate and facilitating the growth of invasive species. “The landscape back there is changing,” Kettenbeil said.

There is also the potential danger of ticks. While there have been no reports of it yet in Wayne or Washtenaw counties, deer are known to spread the disease and they want to be mindful of the 15,000 school children” who visit the area each year. The number of car/deer accidents in the Dearborn and Dearborn Heights area has reportedly been rising. One resident complained about how his landscaping was being devoured by the deer. At one point he had counted 13 in his backyard.

Kettenbield said one thing he was surprised about were types of calls he received. Some were expected, but some were not. Eager hunters in the community calledto offer their services.

“This was not a free for all, nor was this a call for hunters, Kettenbield said. “There’s a company; there’s a process.”

The venison will be donated to the Gleaners Food Bank and the Capuchin Soup Kitchen.