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Silver Lake -- As village leaders move toward implementing a deer culling program, residents addressed Council earlier this month with several requests and questions.
Those requests include: put the deer culling question on the ballot and perform an official study to determine the amount of deer in the village. A resident also questioned how many deer-car crashes have occurred in the municipality. Also, some residents noted they had not seen many deer lately.
Before public comment at the June 5 meeting, Council President Jerry Jones (At Large) emphasized that no legislation has been adopted on the issue.
"We have not done anything," said Jones. "We're still in the discussion stage."
Village Council Vice President Carol Steiner (District B) emphasized that village leaders are looking to implement a program to cull deer only in the nature reserve area behind Village Hall.
"We're not doing it on any residential streets or any other private property," noted Steiner.
Council 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. 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.
George Hagan, who's lived in the village for 15 years, said he enjoys sitting in his family room and watching deer in his backyard.
"This year is the first year that I've lived here [that] I don't see any deer in my backyard," he said.
Resident Devon Feriance said she lives in an area where she used to see a lot of deer, but has now counted "three deer in the last two months."
Resident Vicky Marimon also said she is not seeing as many deer as she was earlier in the year.
She noted she felt that since the issue has been publicized for the last few months, people are not feeding deer as much as they did previously.
"Now that it's gotten public, they're not feeding the deer and we don't have a problem," said Marimon. "They're non-existent. I'm not sure we need to cull the deer."
Resident Lila Nissel, however, noted she's seen as many as "seven" deer because she lives near the Cuyahoga River and "they come up through the river and into the woods. They come from the woods from Van Sise Reserve over to where I live."
Mayor Bernie Hovey said he had suggested that Council consider putting the issue on the ballot and "Council decided that it's their job to make the decision."
"That's kind of sad," said resident Barb Oldham.
Other residents also urged Council to put the matter on the ballot.
"I don't think it would be right for just a few people to make a decision to kill the deer unless everybody has some say so," said Hagen.
Feriance noted, " I think putting this on the ballot is the right thing to do for the community."
Resident Susan DeChant said she is opposed to culling the deer and questioned whether a majority of residents favored the proposal. She said she felt the village should "not proceed [with a culling program] until a vote is taken by residents."
Citizens addressing Council also felt it was important for the village to perform an official count to determine the number of deer in the municipality. If the number of deer are not known, Oldham asked, "How do we know we have a problem?"
Hovey said, "people will generally acknowledge there are more deer in this village than there were just a few years ago."
Hovey clarified he is primarily concerned with safety and health issues associated with deer. The mayor said there have been "several near-accidents" on Kent Road, "several" elderly residents have walked out of their homes and "feel they've been challenged by a buck."
He also noted that deers carry ticks (though he acknowledged they are not the only animals that carry ticks) and added he's received photos from residents showing their yards "covered with deer feces."
Though he did not have official statistics on deer-car crashes in the village, Hovey said, "if there was one accident, that's one too many."
"The number of accidents and where they are is important to me," said Oldham.
While saying she doesn't mind the deer, Nissel acknowledged that the animals cause damage and accidents. She noted her son has a repair shop and he is always fixing cars that have run into deer.
On June 5, Council also discussed feedback it had received on the draft ordinance from Geoff Westerfield from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources official.
Hovey told Council that Westerfield feels the village's current proposal is "way, way too specific," and the official "just suggested using state guidelines for hunting."
The mayor later told the Falls News-Press that Westerfield's "recommendation is less restrictive than the draft I drew up. It allows for changes to be made if/when the Director of Public Safety [the mayor] deems necessary. It allows for the [mayor] to administer the program without necessarily always going to Council. I, however, would always want Council support and agreement."
If the program is implemented, the cull would only occur during hunting season. Noting that the hunting season does not begin until September, Jones said, "We've got plenty of time to massage the legislation the way we want it."