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Bill dictates hunting, not sterilization to control deer populations

Detroit Free Press logo Detroit Free Press 12/13/2018 Kathleen Gray
a close up of an animal © Provided by Gannett Co., Inc.

LANSING – The Michigan House of Representatives gave final passage Thursday to a bill that prohibits communities from adopting deer sterilization programs to limit growing deer populations in their towns.

The bill, which passed 67-42 shortly before 2 a.m., targets the City of Ann Arbor, the only city in the state that has been using a sterilization program to help manage its deer herd. The Senate passed the bill 26-10 on Dec. 6.

For the last two years, Ann Arbor has been using a two-pronged approach: using sharp shooters to kill the herds in open areas of the city and capturing and sterilizing does in densely populated neighborhoods.

Last year, the city sterilized 54 deer and hired sharpshooters to kill 100 more. So far this year, the city has budgeted $370,000 for the two programs. The sterilization is a process that takes about two hours and the deer are taken back to the area where they were captured.

Ann Arbor will be able to finish out its three-year program, but no other town will be able to get a permit from the state to pursue a sterilization program.

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The sterilization program offended some lawmakers, who felt that employing hunters was a much more effective way to cull the herds. 

"Why do we need deer sterilization in the first place when we have sportsmen who are fully capable of managing our deer species?" said Rep. Triston Cole, R-Mancelona, who sponsored the legislation. "This is a wonderful opportunity for urban residents to learn about quality deer management and the benefits of hunting to the entire state."

The bill would prohibit the Department of Natural Resources from issuing sterilization permits until at least April 1, 2022, while the Natural Resources Commission studied different programs, including sterilization, to control deer herds.

The bill also allows a city to adopt a firearm hunting distance requirement that is shorter than current law, which mandates that hunters must stay at least 150 yards from an occupied building, house or barn unless they have the permission of the owner, renter or occupant of the property.

The bill — HB 5321 — now goes to Gov. Rick Snyder to sign or veto.

Contact Kathleen Gray: 313-223-4430, kgray99@freepress.com or on Twitter @michpoligal

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Bill dictates hunting, not sterilization to control deer populations

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