August 23, 2014

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Proposal to allow deer culling by police discussed in Avon Lake

AVON LAKE — A proposed deer-kill ordinance sparked an emotional three-hour public hearing Thursday.

The ordinance would allow Mayor Greg Zilka to authorize police officers and other city employees to shoot deer with rifles, to reduce the population of the animals.

Ordinance proponents said more deer and deforestation in the city have increased deer-vehicle collisions. They stressed killing was regrettable but necessary to reduce the estimated 250 to 300 deer in the city.

“I have no agenda, except for the safety of Avon Lake residents and their families and neighborhoods,” said Councilman Rob James, Environmental Committee chairman. “I tried to balance all concerns that have been raised on this issue.”

James said he wasn’t aware of any fatal deer-vehicle collisions in Avon Lake, but that was his biggest concern. On Nov. 6, a Lorain driver was killed when a deer collided with his car on Baumhart Road in New Russia Township.

In June, a motorcyclist was killed in Eaton Township after colliding with a deer. Lorain County had 610 deer-vehicle collisions in 2011-12, the third-highest number in Ohio and up 22 percent from the previous year, according to the Ohio Insurance Institute.

The ordinance also allows Zilka to authorize bow hunting, which has been legal in Avon Lake since 2004. James said the ordinance, which Council members plan to tweak and discuss at another meeting, is designed in conjunction with non-lethal alternatives such as additional signage and deer contraception if authorized by the Ohio Division of Natural Resources.

Deer contraception is illegal in Ohio in most circumstances, and James said the division could only control deer population, not reduce it. He said the ordinance would allow Zilka to “safely, efficiently, effectively and humanely” reduce the deer population.

Hunting would only be allowed on land parcels of 5 acres or more and not within 500 feet of the property line of an owner who hasn’t given permission for hunting or within 500 feet of a driveway or roadway. Ordinance opponent and Councilman David Kos got Council members to increase distances from 250 feet to 500 feet, but failed to restrict hunting around daycare centers or schools.

“Those are two locations that never should be left up to the discretion of one person,” Kos said before his proposal was defeated. James and Council members Dan Bucci, Jennifer Fenderbosch, Martin O’Donnell and John Shondel voted against.

Proponents said they didn’t want to tie Zilka’s hands by making the ordinance overly restrictive, but the vote angered resident Kristi Houde, a mother of three.

“It’s lazy. It’s reckless, and it’s absurd, and it’s insulting to parents,” said Houde to applause from the audience of about 50 people. “You failed miserably to actually keep our kids safe.”

Resident Amy Nasr disagreed. Nasr, a member of the Environmental Affairs Advisory Board, the citizens group that studied the issue for a year and helped draft the ordinance with Council members, said the proposal is safe.

“All of the questions that people have now we’ve looked at in depth,” she said. “I have kids, too, and I do care, and I do want it to be safe.”

Resident Don Sweeney was also supportive. He said more deer mean more accidents and contraception or signs won’t reduce the population.

“I applaud your political courage for bringing this subject out of hibernation and doing what needs to be done,” Sweeney told Council members. “These realities are not going to go away. They’re not going to change.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.

Read the proposed ordinance: