November 21, 2014

Elyria
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Avon Lake to use chopper to take deer census today

AVON LAKE — A helicopter may spend a good deal of the day today flying above the city.

Its occupants, including an Avon Lake police officer, will count the city’s deer population as part of the community’s continuing efforts towards controlling the animals.

“We are expecting snow tonight and early Wednesday, so we felt conditions would be ideal for this event to take place tomorrow,” Avon Lake Mayor Greg Zilka said Tuesday.

Officials including Avon Lake police Lt. Michael Bulger and a pilot who will fly the Precision Helicopter Services aircraft concluded that the snow cover would also make it much easier to see deer moving on the ground.

Bulger is in charge of a deer control program that will eventually determine how deer should be reduced and maintained in the future.

The aerial survey and population count was strongly recommended by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources as a more accurate means of counting deer.

“If we need culling, any program will be initiated based on numbers from a count,” Zilka said.

State officials will fix the number or percentage of deer that can be killed as a means of controlling their numbers, then grant permission for steps that could include bow hunting, sharpshooters and birth control to keep deer numbers in check.

City Council ended a year-long debate over how to control the city’s deer population in January when it approved legislation that authorizes Zilka, Police Chief David Owad and other officials to develop a deer control plan.

Residents have long debated how many deer run loose in town, with estimates ranging from 40 deer to as many as 300, Zilka said.

“We had one man last week who said he saw at least 118 deer in one day in a square mile,” Zilka said.

The bulk of the city’s deer population is generally believed to inhabit one of two areas.

One is in or west of the Lorain County Metro Parks’ Kopf Family Reservation which is surrounded by residential neighborhoods.

The other is in the Westwinds area in the eastern end of the city.

“One dilemma we have is that all of the deer are believed to be north of Walker Road in highly residentially populated areas, which makes it virtually impossible to do any type of deer culling,” Zilka said.

The only really open portion of the community lies to the south, the mayor said.

Legislation in January restricts deer hunting to parcels of land at least 5 acres in size and prohibits hunting within 500 feet of property owners who have not given permission for it.

The city budgeted $8,000 for the aerial deer survey, but expects it to cost about half that amount.

The remainder of funds will be put toward culling, Zilka said.

City officials are awaiting a deer birth control proposal from Tufts University, which along with the U.S. Humane Society, offered to help pay for such an effort.

“It may be cost-prohibitive or the ODNR may reject it,” Zilka said.

“We’re trying to do this in a very measured, methodical way,” he said.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-07146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.