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Group wants to stop deer kill

April 29, 2004

The West Side Sun News

By David Plata

An Illinois animal rights group is trying to put an end to a planned deer kill at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport – a practice one councilman said has been going on at least four years.

Steve Hindi, president of Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, said the airport plans to hire sharpshooters to shoot about 20 or so deer in a fenced-in area toward the southwest end of the airfield, where a runway is being extended.

"This is pretty open area because they've been cutting down the woods for the expansion of the runway," he said. "These deer can simply be moved out of the open area of the fence, into Metroparks property. Those are really Metroparks deer."

Fred Szabo, airport commissioner, said the airport is in discussions with Hindi's group and with the United States Department of Agriculture, which provides sharpshooters to cull deer populations on public lands.

"We're trying to decide what to do," Szabo said.

Councilman Michael Dolan, D-21, said deer kills at Hopkins began about four years ago, when he headed the council's aviation and transportation committee.

"You don't want a plane landing or taking off into a herd of deer," he said.

Dolan said the federal program uses archers to shoot the deer with bows and arrows. "It's all very humane," he said. "I believe they harvest the meat and give it to Harvest for Hunger."

Szabo, who acknowledged the shooting has been going on for years, said there are no bows and arrows involved. He said the shooters hired by the USDA use rifles.

Councilman Jay Westbrook, D-18, who succeeded Dolan as chairman of the aviation committee, said he was unaware that deer have been killed at the airport for years.

"That's news to me," he said.

After speaking with airport officials, Westbrook said other options were being sought.

"They're exploring every way in which to move the deer out of a secured area without shooting them, except as a last resort," he said.

Hindi, whose group also has opposed deer kills in the Summit County park system and elsewhere, learned of the planned shooting at Hopkins from an airport employee and visited the airport early this month. He said his group is willing to provide 30 or more volunteers to "usher off" the deer from the airport property and onto the Metroparks.

Hindi said he was unaware of deer shootings at Hopkins going back for years.

"I'm not aware of it," he said. "If they have, I'm definitely not aware of it, and would be opposed to it. It's not needed. Those deer are not threatening that runway – any of the runways. The fences that are up are more than high enough and secure enough to keep the animals out."