AVON LAKE — The city’s long-debated proposal to deal with deer that will allow archers to cull the herds doesn’t mean there’ll be bow hunters roaming the city endangering citizens, city officials said.
There’s a long and winding paper trail that must be followed prior to bow hunters being permitted to hunt deer in designated areas.
According to new ordinance language, deer can be taken during hunting season with archery equipment only after a municipal deer-control permit has been issued to a property owner by the police chief.
Such permits only will be issued after the property has been visited by the chief or his designee. Property owners also must submit maps of the property detailing shooters’ locations, total acreage, signatures of all property owners, names, ages and residences of all shooters and verification that shooters have Ohio hunting licenses and Ohio Hunter Education Course credentials.
City officials said culling operations theoretically could occur outside of hunting season, but only after a property owner obtains a deer damage control permit through the Ohio Division of Wildlife and a municipal deer control permit through the city to take a limited number of deer.
Such permits are obtained when any landowners can show deer have caused property damage.
According to Avon Lake Police Chief Duane Streator, deer culling already was allowed in Avon Lake but only with deer damage-control permits issued to a property owner by the state.
The difference now, Streator said, is that the city has more control and leeway to tackle the problem. He said the removal of acreage and setback requirements, which existed in the previous ordinance, allows for greater effect.
“The biggest change in the process is reducing the acreage size so we can do this in a larger portion of town,” Streator said.
Streator added that before the issuance of deer damage-control permits, the Division of Wildlife examines other methods to remove deer from a property. He said one way residents can help is to stop feeding deer, an activity that is illegal in Avon Lake.
“Feeding deer is one of the biggest problems in an urban setting,” Streator said. “People think it’s nice to feed them, but deer are going to naturally come back looking for that food source.”
Avon Lake Mayor Greg Zilka said the difference between hunting and culling is subtle, but it is a difference nonetheless.
“This is not hunting,” Zilka said of the new legislation. “It is the taking of deer with an agricultural damage permit under limited circumstances.”
Zilka said the city will have the ultimate authority over the nature of a culling operation.
“Theoretically, it could be 365 days a year,” Zilka said. “But we are not going to encourage people to do this on holidays, Christmas, near schools or when school is in session, or in city parks when city functions are happening.”
Zilka said doing nothing would be a mistake.
“If we do nothing, that’s a safety issue,” Zilka said. “The evidence in the last six months of a woman being attacked by a deer and two deer jumping through windows, to do nothing is an unsafe position. The (deer) population is going to increase, and we will have more instances of these conflicts occurring.”
Zilka said culling programs will be heavily monitored and only allowable in select locations. Some residents have expressed concerns about what will happen if a deer does not go down immediately, and it winds up on another property dead, bleeding or injured.
There is no easy answer for such a scenario, Zilka said.
“We respect the rights of people to object to this,” Zilka said. “We know there are going to be instances where deer are hit and not instantly killed — and that is a concern. But we also have to balance this with the fact that we have had 87 deer picked up off the roads, and the other instances I’ve mentioned.”
At prior Council meetings, Councilman Dave Kos, 4th Ward, was adamant about introducing additional safety requirements into the legislation, such as set-back and acreage requirements, prohibiting hunting within 100 yards of a school and requiring criminal background checks of shooters.
Kos’ only success in amending the legislation was adding a requirement that shooting occur from a fixed, 10-foot elevated position and requiring the notification of neighboring occupants of land that will be culled. Both of these amendments are at the discretion of the police chief.
Officials still are working out the details of the municipal deer control permit, which will include even more procedural requirements, Streator said.
Streator said shooters also will be required to report the number of deer they kill, and the Division of Wildlife regulates how many deer can be taken as well.
According to information provided by the Division of Wildlife, numbers of deer that can be taken are determined on a case-by-case basis after a site inspection and conversation with the land owner.
Geoff Westerfield, assistant wildlife supervisor for the Ohio Division of Wildlife, said permits are issued when damage is done, and this may include times when does are pregnant. He also said non-lethal methods are preferred on smaller lots.
“Permits are first and foremost a tool to help alleviate deer being on a property and not a population reduction method,” he said.
According to information provided by the department, so far 28 deer damage-control permits have been issued to landowners in Lorain County in 2014, and 30 were issued in 2013.