LaFave: Time to end practice of deer sterilization in Michigan

Published: Apr. 17, 2018 at 6:27 PM EDT
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State Rep. Beau LaFave voted Tuesday against legislation restricting deer sterilization programs in Michigan, calling instead for an immediate and permanent ban on the practice.

“As an avid hunter and conservationist, I can’t in good conscience vote for a bill that allows humans to continue experimenting with the reproductive activity of wild game animals,” said LaFave, of Iron Mountain. “Studies have shown non-lethal sterilization programs to be an ineffective method of controlling deer overpopulation. We must put an end to the practice immediately and make sure there’s no place for it in the future.”

Ann Arbor is currently the only municipality in Michigan conducting a deer sterilization program. At the city’s request, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources issued a special research permit allowing a contractor to dart and capture female deer, which are then sterilized and returned to the city.

The legislation, House Bill 5321, was introduced and referred to the House Natural Resources Committee – on which LaFave serves as vice chair – as a complete ban on sterilization and would have halted Ann Arbor’s program immediately. However, the bill was amended by a special subcommittee appointed to consider the issue, which LaFave was not a part of. The latest version allows Ann Arbor to continue its experiment until 2020 and opens the door for other municipalities to conduct sterilization programs after 2022.

“This isn’t a real solution,” LaFave said. “It just puts a Band-Aid on the problem until 2022.”

LaFave said he introduced an amendment to place an immediate ban on sterilization programs, and was disappointed not to receive enough support.

“I have heard from dozens of Upper Peninsula residents who are frustrated the DNR allowed Ann Arbor to do this at all – and I agree,” LaFave said. “It’s bad public policy to allow people to mess with the natural reproduction cycles of these animals. I cannot support any plan that allows it to continue.”