YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Earlier this week, the Mill Creek MetroParks Board of Commissioners announced a proposal to use a mix of hunters and sharpshooters to lower the deer population. On Friday, an advisory committee heard that proposal, along with concerns from the public.
Ultimately, the advisory committee voted to recommended the plan to the board, though the park’s proposal remains unpopular with some.
Even people on the Natural Resources Citizens Advisory Committee who voted in favor of culling say it’s a vote they wish they didn’t have to cast.
Joshua Noble has been on the advisory committee for three years and has more than 20 years of experience as an ecologist.
“It’s nothing we’re doing with any joy or glee of any means, because I am a nature-lover,” Noble said. “I like going to see the deer in the park.”
Peter Milliken, who is also on the advisory committee, voted against recommending the proposal and asked the park to consider reducing fertility in does.
“Nonlethal options should be considered first, and lethal options should be the last resort,” Milliken said.
The last time deer were culled in Mill Creek MetroParks was in 2001.
But Nick Derico, natural resources manager for Mill Creek MetroParks, says the Ohio Division of Wildlife, which is in charge of how deer are managed, won’t allow the park to use fertility options.
“Immuno-contraceptives — so, chemical birth control or surgical sterilization — both of those methods are not currently approved,” Derico said.
Even when driving around the Mill Creek MetroParks, it’s easy to spot the deer. In a span of about 10 minutes, our First News reporter saw about a dozen deer just from the road.
Under the new proposal, hunting would not be allowed in Mill Creek MetroParks north of state Route 224 or Yellow Creek Park. Sharpshooters licensed with the United States Department of Agriculture would come in at night after the park closes.
For the other parks, there would be a lottery for hunters. Archery would be used, expect during three special periods of time when firearms will be allowed, during which the park would be closed.
Harming deer with unique color phases — like albino deer — is forbidden and will ban you from hunting in the park and might cost you your hunting license.
If the deer population goes unchecked, both Derico and Noble agree the impact on the park, other species and the health of the deer could be dire.
“We’re experiencing some really severe damage ecologically from overbrowsing. It’s already been going on for a number of years. These impacts were noted in the late ’90s, so we’re already 20 years down that road. If that continues, we’re missing an entire generation of forest regeneration,” Derico said.
The board of park commissioners will vote on the proposal at its meeting in April.