LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan House agreed Tuesday to halt future sterilization of hunting game, potentially drawing the curtain on Ann Arbor’s endeavors to contain a raging deer population.
In a 69-40 vote, lawmakers passed a bill prohibiting the state Department of Natural Resources from issuing more sterilization permits until April 1, 2022. Ann Arbor’s permit — the only one in existence throughout Michigan — would remain valid until 2020. The bill now heads to the Senate.
An ongoing deer infestation in the southeast Michigan college town has especially proven difficult to tackle with traditional hunting due to the dense urban setting in some neighborhoods, which makes direct shooting more hazardous. As a result, Ann Arbor contracted with the private company White Buffalo in an experimental research program that involves using a tranquilizer gun on the deer and then removing her ovaries. So far, 72 deer have been neutered in the last two years, and the city has earmarked $370,000 this year to pursue further deer management efforts.
The unusual method has drawn scorn from some lawmakers who find the idea of tranquilizing and surgically neutering wildlife inappropriate. Now, they hope the practice is seeing its final years in Michigan.
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“Here’s one thing that folks have to understand,” said bill sponsor Rep. Triston Cole. “The deer in Ann Arbor are all owned by all of the citizens of Michigan.”
Cole, a Republican and bona fide hunter from Mancelona, said he disagrees that densely populated cities can’t manage game populations through traditional hunting.
“There are plenty of tools available for Ann Arbor to do this — particularly using the hunters as a resource instead of spending dollars in that community to remove the ovaries of these does,” he said.
Critics of the bills spanned both spectrums of the deer sterilization debate, with some calling for Ann Arbor to immediately cease its neutering experiment and some, such as the city of Ann Arbor itself, arguing that local communities should maintain sovereignty over wild animal management.
The Michigan State Police records almost 50,000 deer-related car crashes each year.