Deer, they're majestic, graceful and, to some Ann Arbor residents, a major nuisance. So much so that City Council has committed $20,000 to get public buy-in on a plan to manage the deer population.
Bernie Banet lives on a quiet dirt road in the Ann Arbor Hills neighborhood. Small trails in his backyard cut through a picturesque, peaceful environment full of trees, bushes and flowers. When deer started to come onto his property about ten years ago, he thought they added to that natural beauty. Now he's using repellent to keep them away in an effort to save what hasn't already been damaged. "Nibbled away the lower branches of this arbor vitae and its sad look, I would attribute to the deer. We've had trees in here too, where they've rubbed against the bark. A pine tree here that they destroyed and so on," says Banet.
Banet's situation isn't unique. Former Washtenaw County Commissioner Barbara Bergman says gardens like hers have been hit hard by deer. "As the greenery gets richer, vegetables, fruit, my flowers, they're all coming here and on good diets they're multiplying. And if you think this is tree city, you might lose your trees," Bergman says.
The damage to plants piqued Bernie Banet's interest in the issue, but, like many residents, his concern has grown after hearing stories of car crashes caused by deer. He also fears an overabundance of deer could help spread Lyme Disease.
Deer management can be a divisive issue. Barbara Bergman tried to bring attention to it during her 17 years in office, and others in the community have voiced opposition to killing the animals. Bernie Banet has high hopes for the city's public engagement effort. "What can be done by volunteers, and what needs to be done professionally? What can be done with lethal methods, what can be done with non-lethal methods? All of that needs to be discussed, it will take some time. We're hoping this is weeks or months, not more years and decades," he says.
Banet, like many other vocal residents, thinks that the problem is becoming so evident that local action is inevitable. He agrees with others saying the real solution to the size of the deer herd should come from a collaboration between federal, state and local officials.