By Nicole Hennessy
One of the most debated topics in Avon Lake is how to control the deer population.
Ask ten different people, and you might get ten different, very passionate answers.
On one hand, there are obvious public safety issues, like the three incidents in 2014 that involved deer jumping through residential windows and/or attacking people and dogs. Also, the 15 auto accidents so far this year involving deer, some of which, it could be argued, may be the result of distracted driving.
The other side of the story includes the assertion that the development of nearby communities directly correlates to a roaming deer population with not much to eat but freshly-planted shrubs. This produces a moral dilemma that some feel can be solved through sterilization, a nonlethal method of population control that is currently being used in many cities, including Cincinnati.
The Avon Lake Safety Committee and The Avon Lake City Council continue working through the second draft of the 10-year deer management plan, staying in close contact with the Ohio Division of Wildlife, which ultimately decides how many deer the city is able to eliminate.
Officials are discussing eliminating a total of 80 deer in the 2015-2016 season, but the locations of the culling are still being looked at, especially in the Kopf Reservation, where four private owners may soon sell land to the Cleveland Metroparks, which would further complicate where the city is allowed to utilize sharpshooters.
Councilman John Shondel, who chairs the city’s environmental committee, has long been a proponent of sharpshooting, though the city’s decision to go that route has been controversial.
He sat down with The Press to discuss why.
Q: Let’s start at the beginning. How did you become the go-to person on this issue?
A: I was appointed chairman of the environmental committee January of 2014. When I first came onto council..legislation (had passed) that had all kinds of restrictions on lots and so far from schools and churches…all the restrictions that were put in by the people, at that point…the police chief went over it and basically determined that there may be one or two places in all of Avon Lake where (residents) could actually hunt because of all these restrictions. Then we had the deer — it was just almost like it came form heaven. A deer broke in a window; another one broke in a window; another one attacked a person; another one broke in a window. We said, well, let’s look at a whole other (plan).
Q: I know people have suggested alternative methods of population control, like sterilization. Is that something that you’ve considered?
A: I’ll refer you to the Cornell study. They did it over five years and Cornell and Ohio State are the best two veterinary schools in the United States. So, Cornell is really, really respected in this and they studied it. And the basic conclusion was that once you had a herd at a certain level that it was possible to keep the herd from getting larger, but you would never reduce them.
Q: So, after we have a year or two of sharpshooters, could sterilization be an option for Avon Lake?
A: It’s possible, but the other side of it is, it’s about two or three times the expense of sharpshooters because they have to shoot the deer with an anesthetic arrow, then they have to sterilize (the deer), then they have to give it another shot to bring it around, and then they have to wait until they’re up and moving. All of this has to be done under the supervision of a veterinarian, so it can be as much as $1,000 or $1,500 per sterilized deer. With the sharpshooting method — absent the fact that there’s some people who say, “I just don’t want you to kill animals — there’s no stress on the deer. It’s an almost instant kill, because they’re all head-shots with high-powered rifles at close range. Secondly, the meat is donated to Second Harvest — 696 pounds from 19 deer killed. 17 were butchered for $850.
Q: What about methods that are very alternative, such as forcing prospective developers to have to contribute to figuring out some of these issues with deer overpopulation?
A: There probably are three or four upscale, sophisticated communities that would say, “We think the problem is developers taking away woods, and therefore the deer that were in those woods, now come in the neighborhoods. The wildlife people say, “It doesn’t matter if you develop or you don’t develop. The deer go where the food is the easiest and the best. And now the Kopf woods…all the undergrowth is gone.
Q: It seems like Avon Lake has a bigger focus on the deer problem and there’s more talk about it than in surrounding cities. Do you know why that is?
A: I think, where we’re situated, that this particular point-in-time — partly because almost a lot of communities have prohibited hunting — they’ve got two predators; they’ve got cars and trucks. The Kopf Reservation is in serious jeopardy and there aren’t many opportunities (for feeding) besides the landscaping. We don’t need to just have this, we can do something about it. I think most problems have a solution, the problem is some people don’t like to hear what the solution is. But there are solutions and you can weigh the two or three of them and pick the one that is the most cost effective and seems to be the most efficient.