. . .is the term used by government, wildlife, and park agencies when the deer population is thinned to protect either the biological ecosystem or to reduce property damage caused by deer. The Health, Education & Welfare committee of Council, which I chair, is currently in the process of re-evaluating Amberley's deer management practice and going the additional step of creating an actual deer management policy, by passing an Ordinance that future Councils and staff can rely on in order to know what to do to most effectively manage the deer in our community. There is no currently existing Ordinance, which means that Council is left to invent solutions year after year.
In furtherance of the goal of establishing Village deer management policy, the HEW committee has so far had two separate meetings with experts in the field of regional wildlife and natural resources. In May, two representatives from the Cincinnati Park Board came to a meeting and discussed the deer management practice of the Cincinnati parks. The minutes of this meeting from May 7th, can be read HERE. Deer are culled in the Cincinnati parks for one reason only: to ensure the sustainability of the park ecosystem. No consideration is given to residential property concerns or incidences of deer-vehicle collision. While these are legitimate municipal concerns, they are not the concern of the Cincinnati Park Board. According to Park representatives Dave Gamstetter and Jim Godby, in their opinion, the optimal number of deer to ensure a sustainable ecosystem is 15-20 deer per square mile. When asked specifically about French Park, they estimated that the park could sustain six deer before exhibiting signs of deer defoliation or a "browse line." It is not only the flora of the park that is at issue, but since the deer will eat practically anything, food supplies for smaller woodland creatures from turtles to squirrels are affected by too many deer in one area.
This week, two wildlife experts from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources spoke to the HEW committee. They relayed the history of Ohio's deer population and how hunting practices have changed in the last two centuries reflecting the fall and rise of the deer population. Briefly, when Ohio was settled, no hunting regulations were in place and the deer population was decimated. Hunting of deer was prohibited and most deer populations were on game preserves. As the population began to increase, deer hunting resumed in the 1950s with strict regulations. By the 1980s, hunters were permitted one deer per season. Currently, Ohio has three different zones with different "bag" limits. Hamilton County allows the most deer per hunter per season with six deer permitted. Additionally, Urban deer zones permit an additional six "antlerless" deer per season. The representatives from the ODNR stressed that for communities, it is important to find the balance between the "biological carrying capacity" (which is the primary concern of the Cincinnati Parks) and the "cultural carrying capacity" which addresses residents' concerns about their landscaping and other property damage, as well as deer-related vehicle incidences.
Both the Cincinnati Parks and the ODNR stated the deer have no natural enemy in Ohio other than coyotes that can take out very young deer. Other than hunters and the automobile, there is no other way of controlling the ever-increasing deer population. Contraceptive use on deer is also prohibited by the ODNR. Additionally, "trap and transfer" methods are also impractical and inhumane. Statistically, deer mortality rates when deer are moved are higher than 50%. Also, there is nowhere else in Ohio or in neighboring states to take the deer. For more on the Ohio Division of Wildlife's recommendations for managing deer populations, you can read Publication 138, which also gives recommendations for plantings that may be safe from deer predation.
The next meeting of the Health, Education, and Welfare committee to address the deer issue will be on Friday, July 13th at 3:00. Our guests will be Lynn Tetley, City Manager of Wyoming, Ohio, as well as Wyoming's Police Chief. Wyoming has been undergoing a similar investigation of their deer management policy and it will be helpful to learn what our neighbors have to say about this issue. Everyone is invited, as well as encouraged, to attend these public meetings. It is important for Council to hear from residents. You will be able to speak and to ask questions of our guests.
For a very informative article on deer management techniques please read THIS article by the State of Connecticut. Several states and studies were used for reference, including Ohio.
Have a great July 4th weekend. Be extremely careful if you plan to light fireworks as it is very, very dry this year.