MERIDIAN TOWNSHIP TAKES UNIQUE APPROACH TO DEER MANAGEMENT
As we have watched hunters lose ground in urbanized areas due to unfounded fears from local residents about firearms, safety, and even anti-hunting rhetoric, its refreshing to see a highly populated area take the lead in creating a solution to deer-related conflicts that uses hunters! We hope that other townships, cities (ahem Ann Arbor!) and villages take a look at this and take the first step that creates a win-win for residents and hunters! MUCC’s Senior Resource Policy Manager Amy Trotter (a former Meridian Township resident) highlights Meridian Township’s efforts in deer management, which should prompt other local units of government to think about crafting their own plan.
Bordered by East Lansing and Michigan State University’s campus, Meridian Township has documented hundreds of complaints related to deer over-population. The complaints include reports of vehicle-deer collisions, damage to personal property in the form of landscaping, and concern for public health. In an effort to reduce the over-population of deer within Meridian Township, a managed harvest began as a pilot project in 2011 on a few select Township properties and has grown every year. In 2014, the managed deer harvest will occur in select Township covering more than 1600 acres and consisting of five Township parks and thirteen land preserves, two township-owned properties that are not designated as a park or a land preserve, and possibly one Ingham County Park.
The managed hunt is NOT open to the general public and only about 70-75 approved, qualified, competent and experienced deer hunters will be allowed to access Township property for the managed harvest. The hunt is open to archery use only, though nearby private properties can still use firearms on their own property. Selected hunters choose which property they want to hunt and are asked to call ahead to notify the township which days they are hunting and post a flyer in their vehicle window alerting the public that there is hunting in progress on that property. There is an annual waiting list as its popularity and support has grown. The 2014 managed harvest will occur during the regular archery deer hunting seasons (October 1, 2014 through January 1, 2014).
Volunteer hunters are required to attend an Archery Workshop session at Michigan State University’s Demmer Center. The workshop included a session on hunter safety, a proficiency test, and an equipment check. The township paid $35 per attendee. Volunteers who attended the session in previous years were not required to re-take the session. (As a side note, MUCC has affiliate clubs, many with shooting ranges, across the state who I bet would be willing to help educate volunteers!)
Nick Sanchez (email@example.com or 517-853-4600) with the Meridian Township Parks & Recreation Department said that the Township started with contacting the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to help craft an approach that would work for their community. It is required to be approved annually by the Township Board, Land Preservation Advisory Board, and Park Commission.
The managed hunt operates under a Department of Natural Resources – Deer Management Assistance Permit. The permits were provided to hunters by the township. The township purchased a total of 170 permits in 2013, which led to the harvest of 127 deer. For 2014, the permits have been reduced to $10 each. The hunters are required to purchase their own base hunting ($11) and antlered or antlerless deer license ($20). In addition, the township was permitted to distribute the antlerless deer permits to hunters on private properties adjacent to those within the deer management program. Three residents took advantage of this opportunity in 2013.
Successful hunters are required to report their take as soon as possible and donate their first deer to local food banks, are allowed to keep their second deer, and then required to donate every deer after. Hunters are allowed to keep the head and antlers for any bucks taken. Meridian Township works with non-profit group Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger (SAH) and Merindorf Meats in Mason, MI. The hunters or a volunteer transported the deer to the processor and the venison was processed using donated funds from SAH, and then donated to a local food bank. Ultimately, 1,300 pounds of venison was donated to the Mid-Michigan Food Bank in 2013. It is estimated that one pound of venison equals five meals; therefore, 6,500 meals were donated through the deer management program.
Looking to the future, Meridian Township has indicated their interest in exploring opportunities with the DNR to also allow authorized hunters to take deer outside of the regular archery seasons under Deer Damage Shooting Permits. But overall, community support has been outstanding, hunter participation has been great, and the food banks are receiving donations. It may still be too early to see positive impacts on vehicle-deer collisions or damage reports, but it’s a start.
MUCC would encourage any township or municipality to start the conversation with its residents and the local DNR office and explore their options. A managed deer harvest can be as involved or hands-off as you want to create it, but again, there is something in it for hunters, the economy, and the community at large!
Meridian Charter Township is located in Central Michigan, on the northern edge of Ingham County and has a population of 39,688 (from 2010 Census). Meridian Township includes the unincorporated communities and census-designated places of Haslett and Okemos and is bordered by Michigan State University and East Lansing. Much of this report was gleaned from the Township’s website, their Deer Management Program Summary of 2013 Deer Harvest report, and personal communications. To learn more about the Township, including the Managed Deer Harvest, visit http://www.meridian.mi.us/ (search for “deer” in the search box).
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