Silver Lake -- Village Council members said they favor implementing a deer population control program in a specific area and will soon examine a revised proposal for such an effort.
Council members on May 15 said they wanted to set up a deer culling program on village-owned nature reserve property behind Village Hall and are now working on fine-tuning a draft ordinance that, if approved, would implement the initiative.
"That seems to be the consensus," said Council President Jerry Jones (At Large), after several Councilors expressed their thoughts. "Do something back here [behind Village Hall], with the bow hunters it gets down to how do we handle that with regard to the [Ohio Department of Natural Resources], whatever rules they may have."
Council member Christopher Scott (District A) said, "We can start there and see if it has an effect."
Jones asked Council members to review the draft ordinance issued by Mayor Bernie Hovey several weeks ago and send their suggested revisions to Solicitor Robert Heydorn.
"They are now reviewing the draft legislation that has been presented to them, and are expected to make comments about any changes they wish to make to it," said Hovey in an email to the Falls News-Press on May 25. "I expect this to be done at the June 5 meeting."
Hovey said if Council reaches a consensus on what should be in the legislation, "it's possible that a revised ordinance may be ready for their review for the June 19 meeting."
The current draft ordinance proposes allowing only bow and arrow hunting from an elevated position. The mayor would be in charge of selecting and approving hunters. Residents would need to give consent for hunting to occur on their land; however, at this point, Council is only looking at allowing hunting on village-owned property.
Hovey told Council on May 15 that if they want to restrict hunting to the nature reserve area behind Village Hall, he would want the legislation to say that specifically.
"If we decide it needs to be done elsewhere at future dates, then that ordinance will be amended pretty easily," said Hovey.
In their discussion, Council members agreed it was their responsibility to decide how to address the problems caused by the deer.
" It is our responsibility as representatives of the village to manage our deer," said Council Vice President Carol Steiner (District B). "We know we have a problem because our residents have told us there's a problem I hate to be involved in killing deer but I think it's our duty to manage the deer program."
Council member Karen Fuller (District C) said she's received reports from residents about deer behaving in an "aggressive" manner. She added her husband has had a buck "stare him down and not move" when he's walked into the backyard. Fuller noted she's aware of similar circumstances where children were in backyards when deer were present and the youngsters were "terrified." There are cases of Lyme Disease in the village which could be related to the presence of deer, she said.
"I think it's our responsibility to do something about this," added Fuller.
"We know we have a problem with the deer," said Scott. "The population just keeps growing and growing and there's nothing really to stop it from growing Something has to be done."
"I don't know that I've ever seen a more divided issue than this," added Council member Bill Church (At Large). He noted a "significant number of people" asked Council to address the problem.
Hovey noted that when an ODNR official first visited the village, he estimated that culling 15 to 20 deer would alleviate the problem, but the mayor emphasized that estimate was "very preliminary."
"[The ODNR official] hasn't really made enough of an observation to say" for sure how many deer would need to be culled to remedy the problem, said Hovey.
If Council went ahead with the program, Hovey said he would anticipate giving four or five hunters the authority to hunt on village land. To qualify for consideration, a hunter would have to pass an archery course, show that they have experience with such programs, and meet other ODNR guidelines, according to Hovey. The hunter would be responsible for removing the deer, according to the mayor. At this point, village officials have said the intention is to have the cull only occur during bow and arrow hunting season, which runs from approximately September through February.
Steiner noted that some people are feeding the deer and added the village has an ordinance banning such practices.
"The people that are feeding them are not the ones that are concerned about them," added Scott.
Hovey said his office has received reports about people feeding the deer and residents have been cited for it.
"In most cases, they have stopped," the mayor said.
Residents offer thoughts
If a culling program was started, Resident Barb Tolliver suggested that meat from the deer could be used to feed the hungry.
"Perhaps that's a way where we could meet more people's needs," noted Tolliver. "They would feel better because the meat is going to feed homeless and hungry people."
Resident Vicky Marimon said she remains opposed to a culling program.
"You're going to be doing this every two years or every year," said Marimon. "Because the more you kill them, the more they're going to reproduce. It's a losing proposition."
She noted Rochester Hills, Mich. formed a coalition of residents that dealt with deer population issues, which included enforcing a no-feeding law with fines, establishing a deer education program, keeping track of deer-vehicle accidents and putting up road signs warning people about deer crossings.
Marimon said shooting a deer with a bow and arrow is "a slow, cruel death."
Mike Meneer, who does not live in Silver Lake, but travels through the village, noted he has observed perhaps "six or seven deer."
"I'm just not real sure that the problem has intensified as much as people are making it out to be I just don't see those herds that some of you are making mention of," said Meneer.
Meneer said he thought Marimon made "some excellent points."
"I don't think [the culling program] is going to eliminate the deer population in Silver Lake," said Meneer, who noted he felt using bow and arrow to cull the deer was "an inhumane kind of a situation."
He noted there are sterilization practices that can be performed and added there is a spray that can be used on flowers to prevent deer from ingesting them.
The next Council meeting is June 5 at 7 p.m. in Village Hall, 2961 Kent Road.