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Sharpshooters part of plan to cull deer herd in Solon



Published: Tue, February 22, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The attempt to reduce the deer population has caused national debate.

SOLON, Ohio (AP) -- Bob Arnold puts corn out in his yard so deer will have food, and his reward is the joy he gets watching them. He wants no part of the Cleveland suburb's program to use hired sharpshooters to kill the deer.

Wildlife experts say the disagreement in Solon is representative of a growing issue in suburbia nationwide: Whether to kill deer or find other ways to control their burgeoning numbers in places where people are moving in.

State wildlife officials say Solon is the first suburb in the state to hire professional shooters to kill deer, a method used in some parks. The city has started a six-week program to cut its estimated population of 1,200 white-tail deer by at least half.

One of the proposed shooting sites is next to Arnold's home, about 125 feet from his son's bedroom window.

"For me, this isn't negotiable. I don't want that site used," Arnold said, despite assurances from the city and the shooters that people will not be in danger.

"I'd rather coexist with them than see them destroyed."

Former forests

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources offers communities strategies for deer control as neighborhoods are built on formerly forested land, said Dan Kramer, state wildlife management supervisor for 19 northeast Ohio counties. Solon's population of about 22,000 people is growing mostly though development of new neighborhoods.

Some other Ohio suburbs have rejected sharpshooter proposals similar to the one in Solon, Kramer said.

Solon decided against giving female deer contraception because officials were not convinced it would work, Mayor Kevin Patton said. That method requires deer to be shot with immobilizing darts then injected and tagged.

After 2 1/2 years of studying the issue and three public hearings, city council unanimously approved the sharpshooting plan last fall.

"It's not a comforting situation to deal with, I assure you," Mayor Kevin Patton said. "Every one of our council members and myself have all had difficulty with this."

Sharpshooters from Moodus, Conn.-based White Buffalo Inc. will bait deer with corn and shoot them from tree stands mostly on private property, with owners' consent.

Anthony DeNicola, owner and president of White Buffalo, said care is taken to avoid a hazard to people. His company has conducted deer population reduction programs in several other states.

Barbara Kasperski, whose home is on 11 wooded acres, was the first private-property owner in Solon to host a sharpshooter when the deer culling began last week.

"The tree-stand was set up about 50 feet from my bedroom," she said. "I remember I walked back and fourth to my car one time and I heard three shots, but it wasn't loud. There were three dead deer. I wasn't appalled or disgusted."

She says she is disturbed by deer frequently dying on her property of natural causes or after being hit by a car nearby. Solon has about 175 vehicle-deer accidents a year.

Forage

Plants and shrubs that sometimes replace trees in the suburb's developments also attract deer, Patton said.

"We have people who spend a lot of money landscaping property, maybe several thousand dollars, and they open their eyes the next morning and sees stubs left. One lady said her landscaping is just a salad bar for Solon deer, and that is a good description of what happens," he said.

The mayor expects the shootings over six weeks will cost $350,000. Meat from the deer is being sent to hunger centers.

Resident Belinda Geiger has formed Peaceful Deer Alliance of Solon to oppose the deer killings. Last week the group hired a lawyer to determine whether a lawsuit can be filed.

"The really sad thing is that it's pitted neighbor against neighbor," she said.

Robert Warren, a professor of wildlife ecology and management at the University of Georgia, said the deer problem in Solon is repeated in suburbs nationwide because the areas have few natural predators and usually ban hunting.

"Deer don't mind living in people's back yards. That green space for deer is fertility factory," said Warren, past president of The Wildlife Society.




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