A University of Michigan evolutionary biologist says he and many of his U-M colleagues support the city of Ann Arbor's plans to kill up to 100 deer this winter, calling the cull "a positive step toward ecological sustainability."

Christopher Dick is an associate professor in the U-M Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and director of the university's 1,300-acre E.S. George Reserve northwest of Ann Arbor. Dick explains his position on the proposed Ann Arbor deer cull in a guest commentary today in Bridge Magazine, which is published by The Center for Michigan.

According to the city of Ann Arbor's website, the goal of the deer management program is to decrease the city's deer population "in order to reduce deer-human negative interactions and support biological diversity in natural areas."

For evidence that deer culls help to restore ecological balance and biodiversity, you need to look no further than the E.S. George Reserve near Pinckney, according to Dick.

In 1928, four does and two bucks were released there, and the population rose from six deer to more than 160 deer in six years. Browsing by deer damaged trees and shrubs and suppressed plant succession, Dick wrote.

Since 1942, E.S. George Reserve stewards have periodically culled the deer herd, leading to a steady recovery of oak, hickory, maple and other native plant species, according to Dick.

"The Ann Arbor deer cull may not reverse decades of ecological degradation or prevent all diseases," he wrote. "But with around 150 tons of buds, leaves and flowers that will be spared this year alone, it is a positive step toward ecological sustainability."

Dick said he discussed the urban deer issue with other U-M biologists, including ecologists, botanists, zoologists, restoration ecologists and landscape architects.

"We are all in support of the city council's decision to conduct a cull," he wrote.

Read the full U-M News press release

Other media coverage:

Bridge Magazine

WEMU interview

MLive article

Deer standing still on Stein Court, Ann Arbor Township, Michigan. Image credit: Dwight Burdette via Wikimedia Commons