By Jessica Mathews /

Deer culling resumed at some area Metroparks in February to help maintain healthy herds, ensure healthy ecosystems and preserve wildlife.

To address concerns of the overabundance of deer in the Huron-Clinton Metroparks’13 park system, the Huron Clinton Metropolitan Authority Board authorized conducting white-tailed deer culls in some of those parks, including Kensington, back in 1999. The practice has continued nearly every year since, but had to be canceled last year due to a threat of violence.

An update report on the Metroparks Deer Herd and Ecosystem Management Plan was recently presented to the Board of Commissioners. The plan focuses on maintaining a healthy balance of herbivores and native plants, which equates to maintaining a population density of 15-20 deer per square-mile as recommended by Michigan DNR.

In early 2021, the Metroparks conducted a comprehensive review of evolving research and best practices for managing white tailed deer populations and managing their corresponding ecosystems.

The updated plan states 2022 population densities averaged 55 deer per square-mile across nine parks. Regular aerial surveys are used in population models to determine densities and decide if deer culls are needed in specific parks. To ensure the safety of the Metroparks police officers and staff, exact dates of any required deer culls are not published publicly.

A total of 330 deer were removed from seven parks, including some in the local area.

The herd density for Kensington Metropark was 56 deer per square-mile and 80 deer were removed – resulting in 2,263 pounds of venison donated to food banks. The density at Hudson Mills was 40 deer per square-mile and 32 were removed, equating to 934 pounds of venison donated. At Huron Meadows Metropark, there were 87 deer per square-mile, thus no cull was conducted.

The 2022 update states a healthy density of 15-20 deer per square-mile ensures that the herd will have limited occurrence of disease, malnutrition, and starvation. It also ensures that ecosystems can sustain the herd without significant loss of plant species important to the function of the overall ecosystem, and which serve as food and habitat for other animal and insect species.

Officials previously noted there’s an understanding and appreciation of the wide range of passionate views that the issue evokes, but also that research continues to support culling as the most effective and humane way to protect the health and welfare of the population, as well as the ecosystem that sustains them.

Since the inception of the deer management program in 1999, several uncommon plant species are once again being observed in the parks, and in many instances, overall ecosystem health is said to be improving.