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City asks ODNR to kill deer hunt

Staff photo Youngstown officials are asking the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to cancel a planned controlled deer hunt in Mill Creek Park.

YOUNGSTOWN — City Law Director Jeff Limbian is asking the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to “cancel, change and reconsider killing deer in Mill Creek Park” in the city.

Not changing course, he warns, will lead to criminal prosecutions and civil actions.

Aaron Young, Mill Creek MetroParks’ executive director, said until the matter is resolved, efforts to reduce the white-tailed deer population on park properties will start outside of the city limits. That plan will start being implemented in the fall, he said.

Limbian made the request in a Monday letter to Kendra Wecker, chief of ODNR’s Division of Wildlife.

“The administration of the city of Youngstown is gravely concerned about the hunting of deer on land which is situated in the confines of the city limits of Youngstown, Ohio,” Limbian wrote. “It has been announced that Mill Creek Park, presumably utilizing and cooperating with the ODNR, intends to reduce the deer population in the area by killing them. I write on behalf of Mayor (Jamael Tito) Brown and the city administration of Youngstown to express objection to this plan and its implementation.”

“ODNR serves in an advisory role when it comes to management of overabundant deer population,” Andy Chow, ODNR spokesperson.

Copies of Limbian’s letter also were sent to Young and park board members.

“Until the issue is resolved, we will be focused on areas outside of the city,” Young said. “There’s been zero communication from the city outside of the (Monday) letter. We’ve received no phone calls, inquiries or any communications from the city.”

Young said he knew about the city’s concerns after reading an article three weeks ago in The Vindicator in which Limbian said it would be against city law for Mill Creek MetroParks to permit the shooting or bow hunting of deer in Youngstown.

“Any further efforts to continue this path of ill-advised gun play in Youngstown will lead to criminal prosecutions and civil actions,” Limbian wrote.

The park board agreed April 10 to reduce the deer population through the use of firearm and bow hunting. Park officials said the targeted deer hunting would involve federally employed professional marksmen using firearms as well as through the use of bows and arrows and firearms via an ODNR Division of Wildlife lottery.

“There will be no hunting,” Young said. “It’s targeting removals” by sharpshooters in the park.

When asked how the issue would be resolved, Young said, “We’ll address it through the legal channels.”

The targeted method of reducing the deer population is planned for Mill Creek Park, which is in Youngstown and Boardman, as well as Yellow Creek Park in Struthers.

Limbian questioned the validity of a study done that shows there’s an overabundance of white-tailed deer in the park. The report lists 387 deer per square mile.

“The citizens of Youngstown are providing considerable input in the mounting evidence that the projections of the size of the deer population are grossly incorrect,” Limbian wrote.

Using a gun in the park is a first-degree misdemeanor offense of discharging a firearm within the city limits, he said. Bow hunting would be a minor misdemeanor, he said.

“There is nowhere in the park affording a sharpshooter or hunter a clear line of fire to avoid shooting into the city limits of Youngstown and city homes,” Limbian wrote.

He added: “In addition to citizens voicing opposition to killing deer, this administration and citizens of Youngstown are irate at the idea of shooting in the corporate limits of the city. As you may know, Youngstown is victim to the same violence plaguing our country’s urban districts.”

Limbian wrote: “People are in fear for their safety, even in their homes. Several homes have been shot, and more than one person has been killed by stray bullets through seemingly impenetrable walls. This city administration cannot and will not sit idly while hunters and sharpshooters wander park roads and meadows and trails shooting near and in the direction of Youngstown residences.”

Limbian wrote that “this type of deer hunting in Youngstown (is) a punishable criminal act, even if there is an attempt to claim that Mill Creek Park is a separate governmental entity. There can be no waiver of criminal conduct in the area of Mill Creek Park that exists wholly within the territorial limits of the city.”

dskolnick@vindy.com

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