Animal rights activists, hunters opposed to controversial deer cull at Kensington Metropark

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Posted at 7:38 PM, Feb 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-10 19:39:00-05

BRIGHTON (WXYZ)  — Both animal rights activists and hunters disagree with how Huron-Clinton Metroparks is planning to control the deer population at Kensington Metropark.

Animal rights activists say there are non-lethal ways that should be used in controlling the deer population. Hunters don't agree that sharpshooters with Metroparks Police should be carrying out the cull.

Wednesday afternoon, Maria Leonardi and several other animal rights activists, including a concerned parent who lives nearby, stood in front of the administrative offices for Kensington Metropark to protest the killing of the deer.

Leonardi fears the cull will be carried out without public notice.

"Because of the community backlash, they are going to do this under the cover of darkness, and in secrecy, and not make it public knowledge when the culling is going to take place," Leonardi said.

Action News talked to some people who live near Kensington Metropark who also oppose the cull.

"Coyotes take care of the deer and people take care of the coyotes," said one man.

Brian Lane, who describes himself as an avid hunter, opposes sharpshooters with Metroparks Police being used when you have hunters that would do it for free or pay to carry out the cull.

"Let veterans do it, or disabled veterans," Lane said.

Leonardi wants to spare the lives of the deer and urges non-lethal means, like the porcine zona pellucida (PZP) immunocontraceptive vaccine, which is endorsed by The Humane Society of the United States as a solution to "animal overabundance."

PZP is administered via a dart fired from a dart rifle.

Questions about when the cull would take place and whether the public would be made aware began after Huron-Clinton Metroparks posted a letter, indicating there would be two culls in February involving Metroparks Police sharpshooters.

A portion of the letter reads: "We have scheduled the following dates for our cull: Thursday, February 4th, 2021, and Thursday, February 11th, 2021."

There was no cull on Feb. 4 and then yesterday the Metroparks appeared to backtrack on the date for the second cull.

On Tuesday, Huron-Clinton Metroparks posted the following on their Facebook page: "We have been notified that information is circulating about a deer cull taking place at Kensington Metropark on February 11. There is no deer cull scheduled for Kensington Metropark on February 11, 2021."

Leonardi and others believe community support for alternative methods is what prompted Metroparks to call off Thursday's cull.

Action News left several messages for Danielle Mauter, Huron-Clinton Metroparks Chief of Marketing and Communications Wednesday.

She replied after our broadcast and said that there will not be a cull on Thursday. She could not say if a future date was being considered.

Mauter said they will make neighbors of Kensington Metropark aware if one takes place in the future.

Mauter said there are an estimated 120 deer at Kensington, and that the DNR recommends a healthy deer population of 15 to 20 deer per square mile. She added that Kensington Metropark is just over 4,500 acres.

Mauter could not say if hunters have ever been considered for the cull. But she did say that the bodies of the deer are processed and donated to local food kitchens.

As for the possibility of non-lethal methods being used, Mauter said they have already been explored and there are "certain reasons that they are not effective for the Metroparks." She said some of the reasons include costs and how the deer population flows throughout the region.

"We've already taken so much from them," said Ellie Winship, who is protesting the cull. "Why do we deserve to take more of their lives?"

Leonardi has started a petition to stop the culling of deer at Kensington Metropark.