Silver Lake -- Village Council members on April 3 determined more discussion is needed on a potential deer population control program after hearing a presentation from an Ohio Department of Natural Resources official and objections from several residents about using bow and arrow methods to thin the herd.
At the conclusion of the session, Council President Gerald Jones (At-Large) told the audience that Council had not made a decision on "any of this." Jones asked how many attendees favored culling the deer, and said he counted 14 against the program and 11 in favor of it. None of the audience members who spoke at the meeting specifically said they favored it.
After discussing a couple of non-lethal methods of keeping deer off property, Geoff Westerfield, assistant wildlife management supervisor for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Wildlife, told officials and residents the hunting program is a "citizen-driven process." If a resident wants hunting to occur on their property, they would fill out an application and a village safety official would decide whether it was safe to allow hunting on that parcel, Westerfield said. He noted he typically recommends that municipalities charge an application fee for this process and require that the prospective hunter show proof that they have passed the Division of Wildlife's hunter safety course.
Westerfield added property owners can work together to apply for a permit to allow hunting in a section of a municipality and noted village officials can make the same determination for property they own.
"The citizen-driven process has been proven to work very well while still ensuring safety," said Westerfield. "We don't see issues of deer running around with arrows sticking in them deer falling and dying on other properties, [or] running many properties away."
Archery hunting season runs for four months of the year, said Westerfield. He later told the Falls News-Press that if the village set up a program in the manner he suggested, "during [archery] hunting season a resident would only apply for the ability to hunt through the permit application and follow statewide regulations for hunting."
He also said ODNR "only get(s) involved when there is a damage claim made and the landowner is wanting to remove deer outside the statewide hunting season."
Westerfield also told the Falls News that "anyone can call us to discuss a wildlife damage situation However, when we work with that resident, we have to abide by all village/city ordinances including any lethal action."
Westerfield told the audience on April 3 there is not a specific number of deer that constitutes a problem because it depends on the location of the deer and how the affected residents want to address it.
"When you let the people that want to control the deer control them, they're dropping those numbers down to what makes them comfortable then we're golden," said Westerfield.
Residents ask questions, voice opinions
Resident Mary Lou Van Sise said one reason for the deer problem "is because they have been scared out of the [village owned nature reserve] by all the loud trucks now back there."
She noted deer spray can be used to keep the animals from eating flowers and added, "killing wildlife is unthinkable when we are so lucky to have a nature reserve area." The nature reserve area that Van Sise referenced is the land that her family sold to the village in the 1960s. Deer spray, Westerfield said, produces mixed results because every deer is different in what it likes or dislikes.
Van Sise asked whether there would be hunting on the nature reserve property. Westerfield said that decision is up to village officials. Mayor Bernie Hovey later told the audience that if officials decided to allow hunting, he would propose doing it on the property referenced by Van Sise.
"If 10 people get together and try to restrict the deer, they're just going to go in somebody else's yard," said resident Tim Owens. "If we can keep them over here on the south side of the highway (Kent Road/Route 59), that would be fantastic. Everybody here that is complaining about deer eating their plants would be happy."
Resident Vicky Marimon raised the possibility of using sterilization practices to control the deer population.
Westerfield responded that wildlife officials thus far have yet to find a single project of that type "that has proven to work where you have deer coming and going."
He also noted such efforts are expensive and now it is only research and not a tool that ODNR can use in connection with population control.
Westerfield said a resident applying for a permit to allow hunting on their land would need to list the names of the hunters who would be used. He noted police departments will often conduct criminal background checks on prospective hunters.
The hunters are, "usually people that they know. Family, friends, co-workers, stuff like that," said Westerfield.
Council member Karen Fuller (District C) said she was concerned about residents using friends and family to hunt on their land. She noted when Hovey had previously discussed the issue, he said only "certified hunters" would be allowed.
"If that's not the case, I have an issue with my brother, [or] anybody else calling their brother to just hunt," said Fuller.
"I'm 100 percent opposed to it," said resident Allison Keck. "I think it's disgusting I can't believe that our village would go to these lengths to get rid of a few deer problems."
Resident Adam Ekonomon said property between Graham Road and Kent Road has "frontage of less than 100 feet on average, lot acreages of less than a half an acre, when an arrow can travel 300 feet per second "
"These lots are really small and they're full of children and they're full of animals and they're full of walkers and joggers and bikers," said Ekonomon.
Westerfield said the village could dictate the number of tree stands on each property. He noted hunters generally stay within 30 yards for a shot and they are shooting downward from a tree stand. He said the ODNR has "gone years without an archery incident, aside from a self-inflicted thing."
Council member Betsy Meyer (At Large) said a man crashed his vehicle into a telephone pole on Kent Road in December after he avoided a deer that jumped in front of him. She said she favored setting up hunting in certain areas "just [to] thin the herd out a little bit."
While noting she's had calls on both sides, Fuller said one of her neighbors had two bucks in a "very violent" fight in his front yard and another neighbor has children who do not want to go into the backyard because a buck "lowered his head and became very aggressive toward the children."
"[Neither] Council nor myself will ever approve of deer being hunted in residential neighborhoods," said Hovey following the discussion. "It's not going to happen." Hunting would not occur on areas such as Harriett Road, Lee Road, and Edgerton Road where "houses [are] right next to each other," Hovey added.
Solicitor Robert Heydorn said if Council decided to implement a hunting program, he said the legislative body needs to figure out where hunting would occur before determining how it would be done.