Ludington's city council voted 6-1 to spend $19,500 a year or more of our tax money on a deer cull for an unspecified amount of years. Polls taken by the city and by our Facebook platform seem to show about 3 of 4 citizens don't want a deer cull even if it is supported by 'free' ARPA funds, that position likely increases when using the City's general fund. So it is not surprising that pro-cull citizens have only voiced their support through one citizen, Angie Beyer, and a stubborn mayor who have both made some farfetched claims that mostly refute themselves.
In that vacuum of unsupported claims that a deer cull is necessary, Mayor Barnett has become the spokesperson for the cull, making less outlandish claims, but false or exaggerated claims, nevertheless. Six of the unwary councilors seems to have taken the mayor's comments and came to the conclusion that there is a problem with deer and the only solution is to have a deer cull. This article will refute those claims using statistics, facts and observations.
MYTH: There are a lot of car/deer crashes in Ludington
Back in a public safety committee meeting in August 2019, Barnett spoke of car/deer crashes in the city, he would suggest a deer cull would reduce such crashes at this year's 9-11-2023 meeting, as well. An unlikely ally questioned the mayor at the October 10th Public Safety Committee meeting:
The new chief is more on target than the old chief. In the 50 days inclusive between September 11 and October 31 there have been at least 68 car/deer crashes according to the Mason County Press' regular feature on 911 calls in the county, here's a listing of those articles with the number of car/deer collisions in parentheses: Sept. 15(1) Sept 20(3) Sept 27(1) Sept 28(2) Sept. 29(3)
A mapping of the townships where the crashes occurred is shown at the beginning of this section and it is illuminating about where crashes occur, and where they don't occur. To no surprise, in townships where there are wooded areas and well-traveled 55 mph or better roads there are accidents. Slightly surprising is that no car/deer accidents have been reported in any of the five cities and villages in the county, even the City of Ludington, where the streets are well-traveled, but the streetside is lightly wooded at best and speeds are 25 mph for the most part.
If car/deer crashes are a reasonable reason for having a deer cull in Ludington, why isn't a small township like Summit with 10 car/deer accidents in just 50 days considering a $20,000 deer cull? If you can't figure out the answer to that question, you have the mindset of one who supports Ludington deer culls.
MYTH: Deer are the primary spreaders of Lyme Disease
"Deer carry ticks and deer carry Lyme disease.", says the meeting minutes of the October 10th PS Committee and attributes it to Mayor Barnett, saying roughly the same in the MCP. MSU has published the following diagram of the life cycle of a tick that can spread Lyme disease:
White-footed mice are the principal natural reservoirs for Lyme disease bacteria. Ticks that feed on mice are highly likely to become infected, making them capable of transmitting Lyme disease to people during their next blood meal. Deer do not carry that bacteria, and they are naturally immune from the disease.
Truly, they may transport a tick, but consider that species like mice, rats, chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, etc. have bodies that are low to the ground and are more likely to pick up ticks lying in wait in the grass, this also goes for your dachshund and housecat. Consider also birds that browse on ground vegetation, worms, and the like. These species are all found in Ludington and are more likely to carry the ticks into your backyard, and one actually is an initial carrier of the bacteria that causes the malady.
Ticks will generally only drop from any deer host to lay their eggs when the deer lies down, so if deer are not using your yard to lay down for the night, you might want to direct your fear of getting Lyme Disease towards, rodents, birds, and your house pets allowed to go outside. In a personal anecdote, I picked up 26 ticks (none embedded) over the course of last summer out in property on Sherman Township near a massive woodpile where deer never hang out, but a lot of other critters do. Along established deer paths I picked up one.
Myth: Ludington is overran with deer
According to Ludington teacher Mark Willis' and his high school class's ground research based on trail cameras, there were 375 deer in the city limits back in 2018, a number that has never been officially questioned as to its accuracy, while proponents have used these numbers to bolster their cause. As Ludington is 3.6 square miles in area, that figure suggests every square mile in the City of Ludington is home to over 100 deer. This is patently absurd, even more absurd are the people that say that figure has only grown since.
Consider, the land area of the state of Michigan is 58,000 sq. mi. The estimated deer population of Michigan is 2 million, mind you, the state does not use data gathered by high school classes and trail cams, but they do use other algorithms that are accepted as appropriate. When you divide the number of deer by the area, you find that on average there are roughly 34 deer in every square mile in the state. Noting that over 90% of the state's land area is more rural in nature than the City of Ludington, one has to accept the error that the City has at least three times the average population of deer in its confines in order to justify a cull.
The reason why those advocating for a cull in the city do not advocate for a flyover infrared survey of the deer population in the city is that they know the Willis figures are deeply inaccurate. Unless they are totally foolish, they understand that the deer population in the city is not more than double the human population in the 37.5 square miles of Meade Township.
MYTH: Ludington is overran with coyotes looking for deer meat
"Large predators have been seen within the City (coyotes) in areas heavily populated with deer. People have come across partially consumed carcasses... Mayor Barnett stated if we have coyotes in town, it means we have lots of deer in town." Barnett said that he has received photographs from residents of coyotes now in town, hunting fawns.
Mayor Barnett, no stranger to bearing false witness, has been asked for the photographs and other proofs of coyotes and their damage and has admitted he has nothing. Studies have shown that coyotes much prefer forested areas and large parks where they can steer clear of humans, and they try to avoid residential areas. With the rest of Mason County and adjacent counties being less residential than Ludington, any coyote who found themselves in the area would quickly leave once they figured out that Willis' deer numbers were wrong and our surrounding forests were better hunting grounds.
MYTH: Ludington deer are aggressive and attack pets
“This isn’t a matter of deer just eating someone’s hostas but we are now getting reports of deer attacking people’s pets.” Barnett said a doe attacked a Fourth Ward resident’s dog recently because the doe’s fawn was in the vicinity.
That sounds like a defensive action, mayor, but are deer aggressive? White-tailed deer are not inherently aggressive animals. In fact, given the choice of fight or flight, white-tailed deer use flight as a survival strategy. However, like most animals, a white-tailed doe can become aggressive if she perceives that her young are threatened.
We would find fault with a human mother, perhaps even criminally, if she neglected to protect her young children from a predator, as most of us would find fault with a doe who would abandon her defenseless fawn. No one should fault any animal mother for acting in self-defense or to defend her young from what appears to be an aggressive dog.
MYTH: Deer spreads Chronic Wasting Disease to humans and pets
Mayor Barnett: We are looking at doing something before disease spreads in the herds, such as chronic wasting disease... that can spread to pets and people.”
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a fatal, neurological illness occurring in North American cervids (members of the deer family), including white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, and moose... CWD is not known to infect livestock or humans.
Unless you have a pet deer or you married one, you won't have to worry about CWD even with some exposure to deer already afflicted with it.
CONCLUSION: All of the reasons given for holding a deer cull in Ludington are whimsical, made-up, and used to justify an action taken solely because some hard-headed residents can't figure out simple ways to protect their gardens and their hostas from a peaceful animal. Instead of spending $60,000 from the community chest for a three-year deer cull that won't work, why can't we better counsel or educate those few who would foist a costly, violent deer cull on the rest of us peaceful citizens?
Excellent article X. Your article answers any questions needed to make a rational and informed decision regarding the necessity of a deer cull within Ludington's city limits. It is well written and explains the questions raised and it's easy to understand. Most of the public will never see this information or really care about it. They're to lazy watching reality TV or late night football. They won't take the time to actually check on what elected and appointed officials are doing or investigate the issues and facts. Politicians rely on that and we see the results of this whenever laws, policies and taxes are involved. Especially regarding important issues. The deer cull is a perfect example. It is an idea born out of and supported by ignorance. I hope many people will get a chance to read this information. Thanks for the research.
I don't mind doing the research, even on the off chance that it disproves my original premise. What I do mind is seeing seven Keebler elves not doing theirs and imposing those ignorant decisions made onto the rest of us.
If there is no public purpose for a $20,000 per year expenditure of funds, and there has been nothing viable proposed as a public purpose that isn't refuted in this article, then return the money to the taxpayers, or at least don't ask for a quarter million dollars extra in taxes like they did this summer, just so the city corporate wouldn't be affected by Headlee rollbacks.
The council seems to believe all they need to do is vote for a cull and their job is done. The USDA, that will be conducting the cull, does not notify anyone about it as they seem to be oblivious to the associated dangers and the city was not even aware of this prior to voting. So who is going to inform the public about the where and when related to the cull. At this point it appears to be no one! This article informs all of us about the deception being used to justify a cull. I wonder why the mayor is so determined to have one? Could it be because he lives on Lakeshore Drive and has experienced a few deer in his yard? The anti deer crowd appear to be mostly transplants to Ludington who don't like wildlife. Well wildlife is everywhere because we have inhabited nearly all livable space on the planet. Maybe there are too many humans. My daughter lives in Schaumberg Ill, a heavily populated area west of Chicago, she saw a coyote in front of her home yesterday. We can not and should not try to kill our way out of everything that annoys us.
If you were at the 10-23-23 meeting, saw the video, or just looked at the minutes you notice one thing, after first noticing there was nothing about any details of a cull in their packet. Their primary concern was whether they would use ARPA funds on this project, and this small funding dispute actually affected 3 votes as an ARPA funded cull was defeated 4-3. Councilor May mentions something about the USDA having a locator program and making a report a couple of times, but this isn't mentioned anywhere in last year's documents or in any committee meeting, it is totally made up.
Recent FOIA responses have shown that there are no safety protocols being offered by the USDA, so expect a bunch of people unfamiliar with the area to come into town for a weekend, in total secrecy shoot muffled high-powered rifles from the back of vehicles and claim they culled deer safely. These don't have to be safety-trained hunters because culling isn't hunting, and they don't have to follow laws if it impedes their work.
Our simple-minded councilors all seem to believe that because this cull is ran by the federal government that it automatically will be successful. How are they doing down at the southern border, keeping criminals and terrorists from coming across and creating a nationwide safety and security issue? The truism here is that if you want to really screw up a project, get the federal government involved rather than try to figure out a sane way to approach a problem that may not even exist in Ludington.
The latest figures of car-deer crashes in Mason County over this last month (from Nov 3 to Dec 5) sees 89 more crashes and we have a couple of firsts for this season: one crash occurred in both the City of Scottville and the Village of Custer (both on the US 10 Highway (State Street). Still looking for the first car/deer crash in the City of Ludington. Wondering where the crashes have occurred thus far-- here are the township leaders for late 2023, Amber has surged and Summit has slumped in numbers for the 176 reported crashes:
Still scoreless: City of Ludington. How do we keep missing those 400 deer inside the city limits?