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Deer-culling foes take shots at city

December 16, 2004

The Solon Times (Solon, OH)

By JOSEPH KOZIOL JR.

Amy Yavor, who makes a living in education, asked last week what lesson Solon is teaching the city's children with its planned deer kill.

"It's a terrible example we're setting for future generations," she said. "We're the problem. There's too many of us. We have to set an example for our children."

Ms. Yavor, an environmental science teacher at University School, was one of about 20 people who spoke at a meeting held at the Solon Library. The meeting was attended by an overflow crowd of about 150.

It was organized by Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, an Illinois-based animal-rights group. According to a flier distributed by the organization, the meeting's purpose was to show a "shocking video" of deer-culling practices in hope of convincing officials to adopt other means for controlling the deer population.

"The video is, frankly, hard to watch, but we are trying to keep Solon's deer from suffering the way they did in Summit County and Illinois," according to the flier.

The meeting did little to change the mind of one councilman who attended. "I told her I didn't care what she did. We're still going ahead with the program," Councilman Edward K. Suit said, referring to his conversation with one of the activists.

He attended the meeting along with Councilman John T. Scott and Solon Public Works Director David L. Klunzinger, who has been put in charge of the culling program, which will involve sharpshooters. The city plans to reduce the city's estimated deer herds of 1,200 by 600 over the next two years.

While the majority of those who spoke at the meeting opposed the culling plan, but some in favor of it spoke out without going to the podium.

As SHARK began its video, which showed a herd of feeding deer being trapped by an explosive netting device, Mr. Klunzinger yelled out, "It's not what we're going to do. Talk about that, too."

At another point in the video, during which Steve Hindi, president of SHARK, said deer could be heard screaming, an audience member called out, asking what the group thought of the screams from drivers who are involved in motor-vehicle accidents with the deer.

Speaking of Solon's proposed deer kill, Mr. Hindi began by noting that the city was having trouble finding sites for sharpshooting. He said about 50 of the 80 sites identified by the city for the program were ruled out by White Buffalo Inc., the Connecticut-based firm hired by the city to conduct the shooting.

Mr. Hindi said the city "promised" there would be a comprehensive plan to handle its deer problem but had abandoned alternatives and planned only to shoot the deer. He said the film showed that deer could suffer even when using sharpshooters.

"They need to propose a plan that is safe, appropriate, long term and fair," he said.

Greg Janik, a Hudson resident who served as a chairman on that city's ad-hoc deer committee in 1996, urged Solon officials to adopt a more comprehensive plan. "It's a very difficult issue and tough to withdraw emotions with footage like that," he said.

He said Solon officials should adopt similar measures as Hudson, placing signs on "hot spots" where deer are known to cross roadways, especially during mating season. He said his city also looked at limiting development, which robs deer of habitat, by attempting to increase parklands.

Most important, Mr. Janik said, is to get the community involved, because it will take an effort on everyone's part to solve the problem.

"It starts with how active you are in your own gardens," he said. "If you keep introducing salad bowls for the deer, you shouldn't be surprised deer are out there. You need to examine all the options before going down the road you're on."

William Bart, of Solon, said city officials need to give residents a say in the matter, particularly because the program is estimated to cost $500,000 over the next two years. "Why can't this be put on the ballot?" he asked.

Beverly Whelan, also of Solon, said residents need to push for the use of contraceptives for deer in Ohio. She said state officials have been slow to use contraceptives with deer because of lobbying from hunters. "I'm urging you, I'm begging you to rattle the cages in Congress," she said.

Mr. Hindi also challenged city officials, saying he had hoped to hear from Mr. Suit on the matter, but was rebuffed. He said Mr. Suit avoided the issue, because he could not support his position. "The more he says, the deeper the hole he digs," Mr. Hindi said.

Mr. Suit, who declined an invitation to speak, said he only attended to observe the proceedings. "It's their show," he said. "It's not the city's meeting. It's their meeting."

When Mr. Hindi attempted to confront him in the lobby of the library, Mr. Klunzinger said, "I told him, 'I'm a public works director, and you're a professional agitator.'"

Mr. Hindi said residents need to flood City Hall and keep the media involved in their efforts.

He told residents they could disrupt the culling program by running chain saws. "You can win. You must win. Just don't let go," he said.