Carpenter Hill on Center Road; Old Mission Peninsula | Jane Boursaw Photo
Carpenter Hill on Center Road; Old Mission Peninsula | Jane Boursaw Photo
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Seeing lots of dead deer along Old Mission Peninsula roads? You’re not alone. If you’ve driven the roads out here recently, you’ve likely seen a deer or two along the roadside.

At the end of the Township Board meeting this week, Township Clerk Becky Chown commented that there is some confusion over whose responsibility it is to pick up dead deer and other animals, and where those carcasses are supposed to be taken.

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She spoke with Lt. Joe Molnar, a DNR officer who manages 11 counties in northern Michigan, including Grand Traverse County. “He let me know that there has been a problem between the DNR and the Road Commission,” she said, adding, “We need to get the DNR, the Road Commission, and the appropriate township officials throughout Grand Traverse County in the same room.”

She said when the DNR began receiving reports of deer being poached because of piles of carcasses found on state land, they started investigating. “What they’re discovering is that those deer have not been poached,” said Becky. “They have been hit by cars. Somebody has picked them up and dumped them on state land.”

She said that Lt. Molnar told her he no longer wants to send his conservation officers out to investigate these poaching claims. “He went to the Road Commission and said — and he was very careful with his language; he didn’t want to accuse them — but the language was, ‘If you are picking up roadkill deer and dumping them on state land, stop. It’s illegal. It’s causing problems. Don’t do this anymore.'”

Becky added that as she understands the situation, “The Road Commission has interpreted that to mean that they have a mandate from the DNR to no longer pick up dead deer in the road right-of-way and remove them. And further, if they do take the dead deer, they must have a permit, and if they violate this, it’s a $10,000 fee.”

She noted that at a recent meeting in another township, the issue was discussed at length with Road Commission Manager Brad Kluczynski, who convinced the township that “the DNR is at fault and has pulled the rug out from under the Road Commission, and they can no longer remove the deer from the road right-of-way,” she said. “According to Lt. Molnar, that is absolutely not true. The DNR may take any dead deer in the road right-of-way, but they have to dispose of them properly and legally. They may not dump them on state land.”

When she asked Lt. Molnar if this issue has come up in other counties, he conveyed that “the answer is no. Only in Grand Traverse County, and only the Grand Traverse County Road Commission.”

This week, the Grand Traverse County Road Commission (GTCRC) issued a statement noting that at a December 2022 meeting, the DNR advised them to only move large carcasses out of the roadway if they pose a hazard to vehicular traffic, and then leave carcasses nearby to decompose naturally. Here is the statement from the Road Commission in full…

“Picking up roadkill has always been a necessary service that GTCRC ‘had just always done’ for our community. The process wasn’t particularly complex. GTCRC would receive a notification and then collect the carcass using our personnel and equipment.

“Once collected, the personnel would travel to a remote area (typically a heavily wooded gravel or seasonal road) and place the carcass in the road right-of-way to decompose naturally. Occasionally, local farmers would grant GTCRC permission to use their fields for this public service as well.

“In late 2022, the Michigan DNR engaged the GTCRC that they object to this practice near state land and alluded repercussions for GTCRC and its staff for dumping/littering should it continue. Soon after hearing this concern from the DNR, GTCRC hosted a meeting with the DNR to discuss a path forward, not just for areas near state land, but countywide.

“In this 12/15/22 meeting, the DNR advised that GTCRC should only move large carcasses out of the roadway if they pose a hazard to vehicular traffic, and then leave carcasses nearby to decompose naturally. When GTCRC staff raised concerns about decomposing carcasses in proximity to residential / commercial areas and the likely influx of related complaints, the DNR remained steadfast. The DNR commented that their office would instruct callers to do nothing and allow carcasses to decompose, to bury carcasses on their property, or to place carcasses in their waste receptacles.

“At the conclusion of the meeting, all were in agreement that this matter should be escalated so that all stakeholders (*EGLE, DNR, MDARD, CRA, et al.) could align on an acceptable handling of large carcasses and ensure any necessary legislative changes occur. To date, this meeting has not occurred.

“The GTCRC has also requested that the DNR provide a formal commitment to not pursue actions against the road commission or its staff for conducting this public service. To date, this has not been granted.

“Unfortunately, this leaves GTCRC with a very limited course of action as it relates to roadkill.

“The 12/15/22 meeting was recorded with permission and is available for viewing here.”


*Editor’s Note: These acronyms refer to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), Cannabis Regulatory Agency (CRA, although they may mean the Michigan Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, aka LARA, as CRA is a division of LARA).

For more information, contact GTCRC Manager Brad Kluczynski, (231) 922-4848, ext. 215, [email protected], or DNR Officer Lt. Joe Molnar, (231) 922-5280, [email protected].

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SUPPORT YOUR INDEPENDENT LOCAL NEWSPAPER: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers and magazines like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So I started my own newspaper.

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