August 22, 2014

Elyria
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Avon Lake passes law allowing rifles to cut deer numbers

AVON LAKE — The city has concluded a sometimes contentious yearlong debate over how to go about reducing the city’s troublesome deer population.

By a 6-1 vote, City Council passed legislation Monday night that authorizes Mayor Greg Zilka, Police Chief David Owad and other officials to hone a plan for controlling the city’s estimated 250 to 300 deer.

The most likely option appears to be permitting designated police officers, city employees or others hired for the job to kill deer with rifles.

Before the vote was taken, Council member Dave Kos noted the city was split between those who wanted to use lethal methods, chiefly hunting, to reduce numbers of deer, and those who wanted to try to control the population by contraceptive measures or relocating deer elsewhere.

Nonlethal means of deer control, including contraceptives and relocating deer, which were discussed during the monthslong process leading to the legislation, are illegal under Ohio law.

Among those opposed to deer kills was Cheryl Slater, who along with her husband, Steve, gathered a few hundred signatures for an online petition.

Slater again told Council Monday the risk was too great — and too inhumane — to see deer suffering from gunshots or arrows survive to pose a risk to drivers or residents.

A number of residents, including Mike Sweeney, thanked Council for its work to hammer out an ordinance, which replaces a 2004 piece of legislation that initially authorized bow hunting.

Sweeney thanked Council for persevering and “choosing a higher path” during public meetings “that weren’t always cordial … in which you were called irresponsible … and threatened with not being re-elected.”

“We didn’t elect you to make easy decisions,” Sweeney said.

Council members Kos, who opposed lethal methods of deer control, and Rob James, who chairs council’s Environmental Committee, thanked each other for compromising, which led to amendments calling for a 250-foot setback to keep hunting at a distance from schools, day-care centers and churches.

The number of deer-vehicle collisions in the city dropped from 333 in 2011 to 21 in 2012, Zilka said.

“We have no good explanation as to why this happened,” Zilka said.

The city has not experienced any fatalities from such collisions, officials said.

John Uptmor, who supported the deer-culling law, said, “If you thought emotions have run high before, wait till someone is killed due to an accident with a deer.”

Councilman Larry Meiners cast the lone dissenting vote on the ordinance, saying he couldn’t support the measure in large part because it would likely end up favoring sharpshooters over other means of deer culling.

Zilka said he favors gun hunting over bow hunting due to the fact police and others would more likely already have the skills to use rifles “and they would feel more comfortable with guns.”

Council approved an amendment by Councilwoman Jennifer Fenderbosch that would preserve deer meat for food kitchens including the city’s Community Resource Services but rejected one from Kos to restrict hunting to undeveloped parcels of land.

“We’ll need to let this (ordinance) run its course and then look at it again after a year,” Councilman Dan Bucci said.

As approved, the law restricts deer hunting to parcels of land at least five acres in size and bars hunting within 500 feet of property owners who have not given permission for hunting.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.