NORTH ROYALTON – Voters will begin casting their votes to decide the fate of the deer ballot initiative, Issue 10, which will allow limited bow hunting if passed.
It’s a mirror nuisance initiative spearheaded by Mayor Bob Stefanik, which voters in Strongsville, Broadview Heights, Parma, Parma Heights and Seven Hills will also be deciding as part of the March 15 primary.
The topic of deer culling can be an emotionally charged one.
Some vehemently oppose culling, believing that bow hunting won’t have an impact on the population and holding firm to the "live and let live" creed. Others favor deer-control, pointing to a growing herd as evidenced by the increase in deer-related auto accidents and sightings.
City council has routinely heard complaints over the years from residents upset they are unable to landscape or garden freely because of the constant threat of deer or from those concerned from a safety standpoint.
“Most people didn’t think it was a serious issue five or six years ago, but it’s progressively been getting worse and they see it,” the mayor said in an interview last year.
Stefanik began urging the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in 2014 to take responsibility for the issue since wildlife, by law, belongs to the state. Nothing came of those urgings but dialogue continues with the ODNR to look at ways to control the deer long term, such as through contraception. Stefanik has stressed that bow hunting is only a short-term fix.
Seeing the city would have to take matters into its own hands and believing support is there now from residents, the mayor began coaxing surrounding municipalities to band together last year to attack the problem on a regional front. The thought being that if Issue 10 passes in several of the communities or all of them, it will make more of an impact versus a city doing it alone.
So, city leaders of the six communities have all placed the identical issue on the ballot to allow residents to determine if bow hunting is the right move.
“The verbal deer complaints we hear anytime we go to a community event, those complaints only continue to increase,” Stefanik said. “I think it’s an opportune time for residents to weigh in on how they want to address this growing problem. At the end of the day, the residents are the ones that will chart our course on how we will deal with this problem in the future.”
If OK'd, bow hunters and/or landowners would have to acquire a Municipal Deer Control Permit issued by the police chief as well as a Deer Damage Control Permit from the ODNR, possess a state hunting license and a certificate from a state-approved archery test site such as the South Cuyahoga Sportsmen’s Association proving they are proficient in archery, and obtain written permission from the landowner.
Hunting would have to be performed from an elevated platform inspected by the police chief or his designee, and hunting would only be permitted on tracts of open land at least five acres in size. Hunters would have to take at least one doe before hunting a buck.
If any of these are violated, that person would be guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor.
Per Stefanik’s recommendation, the cities will each designate a representative to continue meeting quarterly to engage the ODNR and keep it focused on long-term permanent solutions which will include non-lethal methods.
Broadview Heights elected officials allowed bow hunting a few years ago, but residents put an issue on the ballot overturning that. With this in mind, Ward 4 Councilman Paul Marnecheck, co-sponsor of the ballot initiative, said it's crucial leaders hear from constituents on this issue. Last week he received an email from a resident who had spotted 19 deer in his backyard, implying something needs to be done. Marnecheck said he is not advocating one way or the other for Issue 10. Instead, he simply wants all residents to cast their vote.
“If the state of Ohio would have done its job, we wouldn’t have to do this. It’s something that touches on so much emotion,” he said. “But this shouldn’t be about the seven people elected to council and having their will dictate this. I think everyone from the strong government liberals to the tea party conservatives will appreciate that we put this on the ballot. People need to vote, and they need to vote early and smart.”
Ward 6 Councilman Dan Kasaris said it is time to finally put this issue to rest.
"The vote of our residents in the March primary will do just that. I urge all who are eligible to vote on this issue."
To access a vote by mail application online, visit the Cuyahoga County Board of Election’s page at boe.cuyahogacounty.us/en-US/votebymailapplication.aspx.
For those who prefer to vote in person, the polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. March 15. The Board of Elections website is boe.cuyahogacounty.us/en-US/home.aspx.