Money must not be a problem for the city of Solon, Ohio.
If it were, officials for the Cleveland suburb surely wouldn’t continue to pay the $611-per-deer price tag for the city’s deer reduction program.
From Jan. 30 to March 19 of this year, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) sharpshooters killed 300 deer in the city, with the venison donated to local food banks.
The total cost of the program (which included fees paid to the USDA, overtime for police and city workers, meat transportation and processing, and administrative fees) came to a grand total of $183,353. That works out to $611.18 for each deer culled!
Even after analyzing those eye-popping numbers, Solon’s deer program administrator, David Hromco, issued a summary report late last month recommending that the city continue the sharpshooting effort into the future.
“At the time of this writing it does not appear that any new, practical techniques for deer management will be available to the city in any immediate time frame,” the report states.
“Although continuing the program in the future can only be done at the direction of the Mayor and Council, it is the consensus and recommendation of those that monitored and administered the project to continue the program using sharp-shooting methods.”
Does Hromco know that Ohio has approximately 500,000 licensed deer hunters?
I’d bet my last dollar that if Solon put out a notice to area hunters, it would have scores of volunteers lined up at city hall in no time, ready to tackle the problem for free.
Many hunters would likely even be willing to pay a reasonable fee to hunt in the city, and Solon could surely make enough money from permit sales to cover any administrative costs. The city might even be able to generate revenue off of the hunt.
Hromco’s report makes no mention of extending the deer management program to include hunting, although Solon’s deer management plan does list proposed guidelines for a crossbow hunt—though they haven’t been implemented.
On Solon’s own deer management web page, there’s a link to a 2009 report from the Northeast Deer Technical Committee that analyzes different deer management options.
That report concludes that “one-hundred years of research and management experience throughout the United States and eastern Canada has shown regulated hunting to be an ecologically sound, socially beneficial, and fiscally responsible method of managing deer populations. Options routinely suggested as alternatives to regulated hunting are typically limited in applicability, prohibitively expensive, logistically impractical, or technically infeasible. As a consequence, wildlife professionals have come to recognize regulated hunting as the fundamental basis of successful deer management.”
Why would Solon take the time to post this information on its own website—and then proceed to ignore it?
There is, of course, the usual—albeit groundless—argument that hunting in populated areas represents a public safety risk, and anti-hunters always organize to contest urban hunts. Anti-hunters also opposed Solon’s sharpshooting program.
But it’s not as if Solon would be blazing new ground by using volunteer hunters to manage its deer. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has established urban deer hunting units to help cities with deer overcrowding issues. Cities nationwide, from Duluth, Minn., to Lynchburg, Va., have successfully solicited help from the hunting community to perform culling operations.
Reports indicate that Solon’s sharpshooters culled deer using rifles with sound suppressors, shooting off the backs of ATVs—all of which would land an Ohio deer hunter in hot water. If that is the way in which the cull was performed, then what is the argument against hunting? A hunter, using a slug gun or bow (in accordance with Ohio law), hunting from a ground blind or treestand, is just as capable of culling deer safely as the sharpshooters hired by Solon.
Still, to allay public concerns over safety, special provisions for hunts like this are not uncommon (although probably unnecessary). Things like archery-only areas and the use of elevated stands have all been implemented successfully by other cities. These types of provisions are actually found in Solon’s proposed crossbow regulations, but, up to this point, the city has opted to use paid sharpshooters instead.
Before this year’s cull, there were an estimated 1,000 deer inside the city’s borders, and that number has likely increased with the birth of this year’s fawns. The city’s deer density stands at 35 deer per square mile, while biologists say an optimal suburban deer density would be 10-15 deer per square mile. Residents are fed up with deer damaging their shrubs and trees, and the number of deer-vehicle collisions topped 100 in 2011.
It’s clear that Solon cannot sit by idly and do nothing about its deer problem, and there is no doubt that sharpshooters are preferable to non-lethal (and ineffective) management options, things like deer contraception, fencing, trapping and hazing.
However, when hunters would be willing to pay you for the opportunity to assist with the cull, wasting $180,000 of the taxpayers’ money is the height of fiscal irresponsibility.