Task force formed to examine Kent County deer population

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids and Kent County are working together to determine whether the area has a deer population problem.

No matter where you are in Kent County, the possibility of encountering a deer exists.

“We see them everywhere. We pick them (up) on the S-curve, we pick them up on rural 22 Mile in Tyrone Township,” said Jerry Byrne, managing director of the Kent County Road Commission.

Deer concerns from residents in Grand Rapids caused the city to begin looking into whether it has an issue with the deer population last fall.

“We were having more concerns with deer browsing in people’s yards, eating their vegetation, eating their shrubs, and we were looking at solutions to be able to address that,” said James Hurt, managing director of Public Services for city of Grand Rapids.

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Instead of Grand Rapids addressing the deer problem alone, a task force has been created, including representatives for Kent County and the county’s cities and 21 townships.

“Deer don’t know jurisdictions. They’re not going to stop in the City of Grand Rapids because they have a program and Alpine Township or the city of Walker doesn’t,” Byrne said.

Over the coming months, the task force will meet with key stakeholders to discuss and evaluate the deer population. If necessary, they’ll also look at implementing solutions.

“A one-time thing is not going to solve this, this is a long-term problem with a long-term solution,” Byrne said.

In addition to the task force, public works agencies are pinpointing where most deer carcasses are collected. Kent County also plans to work with Grand Valley State University on a deer population assessment and a public survey for community input is being considered.

“There’s a lot of passion on either side of this matter and it’s a difficult matter from a public policy standpoint but public safety is the No. 1 goal we’re trying to achieve,” Hurt said.

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While the process plays out, the community is encouraged to be patient.

“We see emails from people demanding we do something now. Well, it’s not a now thing. You can take care of two or three deer in a neighborhood and more are just going to come in,” Byrne said.

If any deer population solution is implemented, it’s not expected to happen until at least the fall or winter.

According to data shared during a Grand Rapids Public Safety committee Tuesday, Kent County led the state in vehicle-deer crashes in 2022 and 2023.

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