In January 2013, City Council approved a deer management plan that included a provision allowing the city to hire sharpshooters to perform a deer cull on city property. After the mayor determined the restrictions in that legislation did not allow for successful deer population control, City Council repealed that law in July 2014 and approved a new one that focused solely on bowhunting in residential areas.
Now, a little more than six months later, council members want to bring sharpshooting back, saying the numbers from the bowhunting in residential areas won’t be enough to reduce the deer herd to a manageable level.
Councilman at Large John Shondel, sponsor for the sharpshooting legislation, said there’s a subtle difference between the repealed ordinance and the new draft. In the repealed law, the emphasis was on the police department organizing a deer cull using its own officers as sharpshooters, he said. The police department did not want to be directly involved as sharpshooters, he said.
However, the legislation did allow the city to hire “contractual agents,” which is essentially what the city would do under the new legislation. Though not exactly the same, the two pieces of legislation essentially follow the same premise: The city would hire agents (in this case through federal or state agencies) to cull deer using rifles on city-owned or -managed properties where it is deemed safe.
Ward 4 Councilman Dave Kos, who has worked to put limits on sharpshooting and bowhunting in the city, said the administration and other council members deemed the previous legislation ineffective when it was never actually put in use. He said he understand they had issues with the property setbacks that he fought to include, but he offered to reduce the setbacks instead of losing the entire legislation. Instead, other council members chose to repeal the entire piece of legislation and approve an entirely new one.
The city worked with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife to create the new legislation to allow bowhunting in residential areas through state deer damage control permits. Council passed it in July 2014 and it became active in the late summer. Two groups of neighbors took advantage of the new program, killing three deer. Since then, there have been no other permits granted. Mayor Greg Zilka and others have said it’s too soon to determine if the program is a success or failure as it hasn’t existed for even a year yet, and the spring and summer will likely bring in new requests for permits as people begin to grow gardens, flowers and other plants on their properties. Still, council members in favor of bringing back sharpshooting have cited the lack of bowhunting as a reason behind the move to the next stage.
“They focused on backyard hunting on being the best solution to the deer problem,” Kos said. “They had to scrap the entire other legislation that allowed sharpshooting. If it was not meant to be the main solution to the problem, then why scrap it in its entirety and then six months later revisit the issue? It makes the city look foolish.”
Shondel admits the city took a less than efficient route with this, but he believes there will be a 10-year plan in place that will control the deer population. Before council approved the residential bowhunting program, he said, he and council President Marty O’Donnell attended a deer management conference in Columbus. While there, they listened to a speaker from Mentor explaining that cities should be ready to spend $100,000 to $150,000 if they wanted control deer populations through sharpshooting.
“So often, there’s one statement made, I can think of times in committee meetings, someone said that’s too expensive,” he said. “It doesn’t seem important at the time, so you don’t challenge it.”
With an estimated price of about $600 per deer through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the price to kill the 15 deer planned through this culling program would be $9,000.
At the time, he said, the environment wasn’t right. It seemed like the deer damage control permit within residential areas was about all they could get passed, he said. It was a political decision, in his opinion, he said.
Over time, people have changed their positions, O’Donnell said. The incidences of deer jumping through house windows, the deer that injured the woman trying to get her dog away and the increased number of dead deer found alongside the roads have changed some residents’ minds, he said.
“I think the community is behind us moving forward with sharpshooting on city property,” he said.