In 2015, Farmington Hills officials saw more complaints about deer and an increase in deer/vehicle crash data.
Six years later, staff has enough information to confirm a problem–and enough experience to know the State of Michigan may not offer much help.
Data includes complaints, crashes, counts
Special Services deputy director Bryan Farmer told officials Monday that data collection has included logging resident complaints, conducting a deer management survey, tracking deer/vehicle crashes, and aerial deer counts.
Among the 200-plus complaints taken by email, phone and in person, Farmer said, were reports of close confrontations with deer, pets attacked by deer, landscape destruction, and concerns about ticks and Lyme disease. One resident kept her grandchildren from playing in the backyard because of deer droppings.
Aerial counts showed the population growing from over 300 in March 2016 to 729 last February. A map developed by GIS (Geographic Information System) coordinator Matt Malone shows larger numbers of deer between 10 Mile and 11 Mile Road, and along the Southfield border.
The city worked with Southfield on aerial counts in 2018, 2019, and 2021. Between them, the cities are home to around 1,600 deer.
Farmer said city staff in 2017 shared data with state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officials.
“They wouldn’t tell us we had a problem,” he said. “They’ll support us in whatever decision we make. They just don’t want to make the decision for us.”
Assistant city manager Joe Valentine said staff recommends a county-wide deer management approach. A committee would work with Oakland County and the state Natural Resources commission to develop a new plan and identify funding resources.
Knol: More than a resolution
Council member Valerie Knol supported the idea, but said the city needs to do more locally. She favors public meetings to educate residents about deer and wildlife management techniques.
“I, for one, want to learn more about a cull… or what other options are there,” she said. “We can’t wait a year saying to our residents, we passed a resolution.”
Valentine agreed, but added, “The fundamental challenge we have is that there’s one playbook for the state.”
State limits options
Council member Ken Massey pointed out most residents surveyed oppose killing deer. He suggested exploring new technologies that eliminate the deer’s ability to reproduce.
Farmer said the state does not allow use of those methods, although Ann Arbor got permission to test surgical sterilization. That city ended its annual deer cull this spring, after five years.
Mayor Vicki Barnett asked for a resolution on the council’s next agenda. She agreed the problem is regional and suggested getting the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments involved.
“I don’t want to give our residents false hope that we’ll do something this year, but I at least want to get the ball rolling,” she said.
To learn more about the city’s deer management plan, visit fhgov.com/Resident/Deer-Management.aspx