Bambi, and deer enthusiasts, can rest a little easier.
Council has decided to lay to rest the controversial bow hunting issue, at least for now.
Members were deadlocked on the idea.
Ward 1 Councilman John Nickell, Ward 2 Councilman Gary Petrusky and Ward 6 Councilman Dan Kasaris were all for allowing bow hunting on large pieces of rural property in an attempt to keep the deer population in check, primarily as a means to protect motorists.
Ward 4 Councilman Paul Marnecheck, Ward 5 Councilman Steve Muller and Council President Larry Antoskiewicz were all against lethal methods, and stated it’s unlikely they’d budge on that stance anytime soon. Ward 3 Councilman Don Willey was absent from the meeting.
Marnecheck had shown some interest early on, but said he changed his view after receiving the most calls he’s ever received from residents, all of whom opposed bow hunting.
Council will continue to discuss other nonlethal methods of controlling deer-related accidents such as education, brush cutting, extra signage and possibly enacting a wild animal-feeding ban to include all wild animals except birds.
For nearly six months, council has been talking about deer, with Kasaris spearheading discussion. His family was involved in three deer-car crashes last year. He had suggested allowing bow hunting on two-acre parcels of rural property or larger in an effort to control deer and lower accidents.
Mayor Bob Stefanik has stated repeatedly since last year that he doesn’t want council to dance circles around the issue month after month in safety committee meetings.
He has also made clear his intentions to veto any legislation that council should pass to allow bow hunting. Council would need five votes to override that veto, which it does not have.
Stefanik said at last week’s safety meeting – before council agreed to kill the bow hunting topic – that he wanted the issue put to rest once and for all, so the city can concentrate on more pressing things such as the loss of municipal funding from the state.
“We’re not shooting deer in North Royalton. The residents that contacted me were overwhelmingly against any culling or hunting of any kind in our city,” Stefanik said. “We need to put this to rest and focus on more important issues in the city.”
The mayor and Safety Director Bruce Campbell have said that they will be pushing a public awareness campaign this year at city events, on the city Web site and in the media. The campaign will focus primarily on driving tips that, if utilized, can keep motorists safer and lessen the chance of deer-related car accidents and accidents of all types, for that matter. There’s also tips residents can do, such as utilizing deer repellent, planting certain foliage and installing fencing to help deter deer from their properties.
Signage, brush cutting and a wild-animal feeding ban were also brought up by Campbell, which council will be discussing at future safety meetings.
Kasaris stressed that an educational campaign, though a good idea, will not work by itself. That it has to be combined with something else, whether it be lethal means or other tactics such as brush cutting, extra signage, feeding bans, etc.
“Public education alone just isn’t going to do it. It has to be in conjunction with something else. We need to discuss a feeding ban, high visibility signs in hot spots, brush clearing, a changeable message board,” he said. “It’s not about hunting, it’s about safety.”
Robert Witsaman, owner of the Royal Victorian Garden Center on State Road, which sells both deer deterrent and deer feed, has been vocal at meetings advocating for lethal means to control the deer population.
He said he wanted council to recognize that there is a safety concern for residents with regard to deer both on and off the roads, and urged council to consider enacting a deer management fund to consider the issue long-term.
“Can we all agree we do have a problem? I see all the things we won’t do in the newspaper, but what about the things we are willing to do? Let’s create a comprehensive plan and fund it. Or maybe get the county to come up with a county plan to help fund it,” Witsaman said.
The mayor suggested Witsaman help the city educate the public by posting information at his business to spread the word about ways to discourage deer. Witsaman
continued to stress the deer management fund and the safety issue that deer pose.
“You sell deer feed,” Stefanik said.
“I know, and I’m the one making the biggest comments,” Witsaman admitted.
“There’s no sense kicking a dead horse, or a dead deer in this case. Let’s move on,” Stefanik added.
Extra lighting in deer hotspots has also been something kicked around by council. Another resident said he noticed several lights out on a short drive through the city, which doesn’t help matters when it comes to avoiding accidents.
Police Chief John Elek said in the past month the police department conducted an assessment of all street lighting and noted all the lights that were out or flickering throughout the city. That information was faxed to the Illuminating Company to address.
“They will come out and replace those, it’s just a matter of time,” Elek said.
Jim Rymut, a resident who lives near the Metroparks, agreed that deer are a problem both on and off the streets. They have wreaked havoc on his property.
He said he’s tried many of the things the city is suggesting to deter deer – deer-repelling shrubs and fencing around his apple trees – but it doesn’t do much good.
“They trample the fencing to get to the apples. Out of 50 apple trees, I only got six apples last year – six,” he said. “Something has got to be done about it.”
Kasaris said he sympathizes with Rymut and wants to keep discussing bow hunting.
Antoskiewicz said council has talked about bow hunting for three months and that there was no point in continuing discussions month after month with council being split.
“It doesn’t matter what information you produce, if we’re split, it’s not going to get passed,” he said.
“We talked about weeds in a subdivision for a year. This involves life and death,” Kasaris said.
“Yeah it does involve life and death – shooting someone with a bow and arrow,” Antoskiewicz added.
Council members went around the table one at a time finally, sharing their personal take on bow hunting before agreeing to move on.
Muller, who chairs the safety committee, and Antoskiewicz both said at the meeting that they will never change their minds.
“It’s just too risky,” Muller said.
The council president said he’s relieved council has put down the bow and arrow.
“I don’t think hunting of any kind in North Royalton in a residential area is wise. We are a growing city with an active population. Our children are so active and people with big parcels of land typically have other vehicles they use,” he said. “To me there was just that danger that something could happen.”