Thursday, April 15, 2021

USDA sharpshooters remove 65 deer from East Lansing parks, meat donated to food bank

February 1, 2021
Katie Hanson, a member of the United Methodist Church-University,  volunteers at a Greater Lansing Food Bank distribution at the University Lutheran Church on Jan. 28, 2021. "It's a way we can contribute and do so safely."
Katie Hanson, a member of the United Methodist Church-University, volunteers at a Greater Lansing Food Bank distribution at the University Lutheran Church on Jan. 28, 2021. "It's a way we can contribute and do so safely." —
Photo by Alyte Katilius | The State News

Department of Agriculture sharpshooters shot 65 deer in two days to manage the deer population in East Lansing.

This removal, approved by City Council in February 2020, was to make sure deer population did not exceed the “social carrying capacity,” said Cathy DeShambo, the environmental services administrator for the Department of Public Works. 

“(The USDA) have biologists that are highly trained in firearms and do this work for other communities,” DeShambo said. “They’re very knowledgeable, and most importantly, they have a tremendous safety record.”

The removal operation focused on six of the largest areas in East Lansing’s parks and took place on Jan. 12 and Jan. 22. DeShambo said this removal operation came from community members’ concerns via a survey sent out by the City to see how the deer population was impacting residents, such as the number of deer-vehicle accidents there were throughout the year. 

The survey results, presented to City Council in October 2019, showed that almost 80% of respondents were concerned about deer-vehicle accidents. 

DeShambo said the survey is still available on the city’s website and they continue to use it to inform their deer management. 

City Council member Dana Watson, who was not sitting on the council when the deer removal was approved, watched the February 2020 decision. Now, as a council member, she brought up the removal at a Jan. 12 meeting because she had received concerns from the community, both from those who were thankful for the removal and those who were against it. 

“I just thought, at least the public deserved some more explanation about what this process looks like,” Watson said.

Watson said deer removal has always been a divisive issue in East Lansing, with some being concerned about hearing the shots, while others are against the lethal removal in general.

All of the venison from the deer, about 2,000 pounds, was donated to the Greater Lansing Food Bank, which could not be reached for comment. The processing of the meat was donated by Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger.  

Watson said what would happen to the meat was one of the questions she had regarding the deer removal. 

“It feels good that the deer went on to feed people and to feed people locally,” Watson said. "It feels good to understand that part of it.”

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