ODNR says plan to reduce over-populated deer in Mill Creek Metro Parks is responsible
There's been lots of pushback and confusion from citizens over the over-populated deer situation within the Mill Creek Metro Parks.
Mahoning Valley residents have raised more questions after the park board voted unanimously to thin out the deer population on Tuesday by bringing in hunters and professionals to shoot and kill some of the deer.
Executive Director of Mill Creek Metro Parks Aaron Young said the new management plan will allow recreational hunting in certain parks deemed safe to do so and will hire professional "sharpshooters" in hopes this will fix the issue.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources said despite the backlash, the park is doing the right thing in order to maintain the park for "generations to come."
Mill Creek Metro Parks is the home to a variety of wildlife, but Young said the parks contain about 20 times more deer than the parks should.
This determination is based on data found using a technology called "aerial infrared photography" to detect the number of deer in each park. Young said they took that number and plugged the data into an equation that's used widely to study white-tailed deer and learn how the population compares to the average sustainability rate, which is 10 to 20 deer per square mile.
While Young acknowledges the data only shows a snapshot of time, ODNR said the amount of deer in the Mill Creek Metro Parks is not tolerable for a local park.
"The numbers that they came up in their survey is certainly much higher than are typically tolerable especially parks setting throughout Ohio," ODNR Assistant Wildlife Management Supervisor Geoff Westerfield said.
Both Young and Westerfield said removing some of the deer can avoid a bigger problem, which is losing more deer from potential diseases spreading and loss of vegetation in the parks.
"There are only so many plants that can be eaten," Young said "They can only sustain so many levels of the deer population. We're getting to those levels now, if not, already passed."
Young details the new plan to thin the population will allow windows for recreational hunting in certain parks using bow and arrows, as well as firearms during the 2023 hunting season and will be done through a controlled hunt lottery system.
No recreational hunting will take place anywhere from 224 and north of there, known as "Mill Creek Proper." However, those park areas will have professional "sharpshooters" of the USDA hired by the Mill Creek Metro Parks to target the most densely populated areas after dark.
"The park district is trying to be responsible with the land they're in charge of overseeing," Westerfield said,
"and so when they see stuff like high deer densities, they want to try and be responsible and again, ensure that that whole forest is around for future generations."
Recreational archery is set to begin in late September and there will be windows for firearms starting in November. Targeted sharpshooting is set to begin in October.
Young said hiring the USDA for targeted removal could be costly with a processing fee of about $100 per deer, and has not yet determined the cost of sharpshooters.