Weiss Field Avon Lake Ohio
AVON LAKE — The city’s first deer culling operation at Weiss Field began Thursday evening silently and with little attention.
People walked their dogs and kids played basketball and used the skate park up until 6 p.m. when police arrived, blocked off entrances and asked everyone to leave.
Elyria resident Larry Best, who brings his dog to the park often, said he has never seen a deer in the park. But he was quick to say he thinks the city took the right approach by hiring sharpshooters.
“I think it’s an excellent idea, ” he said. “Deer herds are getting way too big for the environment that’s left for them. They are not only in danger of starvation but also running into traffic.”
Two sharpshooters, who the city paid the U.S. Department of Agriculture $15, 960 for, didn’t enter the park through regular entrances off Webber Road and they were never seen by anyone in the park.
Geoff Westerfield, Ohio Division of Wildlife assistant wildlife management supervisor, said the men would use regular hunting rifles with noise suppressors to shoot and kill deer from elevated positions.
They might also use infrared night vision to aid in seeing deer in the dark, Westerfield said, although the deer often get so close to the silently waiting sharpshooters that night vision isn’t even necessary.
Westerfield said the men primarily work in Solon, which has a much-larger deer culling program, and they are highly trained. They have also worked in Mentor and in the Cleveland Metroparks.
He said Solon’s deer control program allows people to hire sharpshooters who can set up right in a resident’s backyard. In Avon Lake, the law only allows the city to hire sharpshooters for shooting on public property.
Avon Lake residents still have the option to obtain a deer damage control permit through the ODNR and a municipal deer control permit through the city to use archery equipment on their own property.
“It’s all about taking a look at the issues the deer are causing and finding out where the problems are occurring, ” he said of controlling deer populations.
Killing deer should be a last resort, Westerfield said, and residents should also figure out what is attracting deer to their yards before trying to get a deer damage control permit.
The sharpshooters will kill deer in Avon Lake until April 15. Westerfield said they will shoot at Weiss Field and the city landfill on weekdays in the evening until the 20 deer tags he provided are reached.
He said killing 20 deer in the area is a good start to a successful deer management program.
“One deer off the landscape is one less deer that’s going to either get hit by a car or cause damage in the city, ” he said. “Every deer does help the situation. This is just one step in the whole process. I give Avon Lake a lot of applause for doing a proactive and progressive approach to deer management within the city.”
Residents in the area should not worry about shooting at night in the park, Westerfield said, because the men will shoot from elevated platforms so the bullets won’t travel. He also said there is no chance a wounded deer will wind up getting away from the culling area.