Wednesday, September 02, 2009

OHIO NEWS: Oxford to Establish Deer Harvesting Pilot Program

More than a year after first trying to tackle Oxford’s deer surplus, the city is considering the establishment of a deer harvesting pilot program for later this fall.

City Manager Doug Elliott said the tentative plan is to send 15 local hunters onto specific city-owned properties to eliminate up to two antlerless deer each. Hunters will be able to use either a bow and arrow or crossbow, but will be required to hunt from tree stands as an added safety measure.

While 30 deer might seem like a small drop in a rather large bucket, Elliott said his goal is to restore a healthy balance of deer to the area over the span of several years rather than eliminate as many as possible in one shot.

“I don’t think it will have much of an impact in the first year,” Elliott said. “I think after two or three years residents will hopefully start to notice that the deer aren’t as frequently in their backyards.”

With the state deer population reportedly surging from 17,000 in 1970 to more than 700,000 in 2005, Elliott said Oxford citizens have been voicing concern over the increasing number of deer sightings within city limits. Elliott said recent years have seen Butler County ranking among the top 10 counties as it relates to deer-vehicle collisions. His hope is to not only help lower that number, but also reduce damage to vegetation and prevent the potential spread of Lyme disease.

“We feel like we need to do something to restore a more natural balance,” he said. “We don’t plan to eliminate all of the whitetail deer in town. Our goal here is to put forth this pilot program and see how it works, what kind of reception we get from the public and how successful we are.”

City-approved hunters will be able to harvest as many as two antlerless deer, but Elliott said the first deer taken by every participant will be donated to the Community Meal Center in Hamilton. Processing fees for the donated deer will be covered through a grant secured by the Community Meal Center, with Schaefer’s Deer Processing in Trenton handling the donated meat.

Costs for the program will be minimal, with Elliott predicting less than $1,000 needed to cover permits for the donated deer.

One area resident who doesn’t seem thrilled with the idea is Jeff MacDonald, owner of Ace Hardware. MacDonald first broached the concept of thinning the local deer herd to City Council members last summer, but said he isn’t convinced the proposed program will put an end to deer-related problems.

“I don’t think hunting in the Oxford acreage is going to be effective, but at least it’ll be an experiment,” MacDonald said. “We’ve got to get in town and create a safe, acceptable, citizen-approved way to control deer. And that’s a goal that I’m more than willing to work for.”

Source: Oxford Press

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