Monday, Feb 19, 2018
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Matt Markey

Some question the need for deer cull

  • Opposed-to-the-cull

    While some park visitors have voiced objections to the culling of white-tailed deer in Metroparks Toledo properties, park officials contend that an overabundance of deer is doing significant ecological damage.

    The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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From his vantage point, James Mugler sees no problems with the number of deer in Side Cut Metropark. His only complaint is that there are often not as many deer as there used to be browsing through the backyard of his home along West Broadway Street in Maumee.

“I was seeing herds of deer 15 or 20 years ago, and it’s just not that way anymore,” he said while voicing his objection to the deer culls planned for Side Cut and other Metroparks properties. “All of my neighbors say the same thing. We don’t see that many deer, so it’s hard for me to understand why we need this cull.”

Opposed-to-the-cull

While some park visitors have voiced objections to the culling of white-tailed deer in Metroparks Toledo properties, park officials contend that an overabundance of deer is doing significant ecological damage.

The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
Enlarge | Buy This Image

Population counts by Metroparks Toledo have put the number of deer in the greater Side Cut area, which includes Blue Grass Island, Audubon Island, and Fallen Timbers Battlefield, at more than four times the biological carrying capacity of the habitat. Park officials said the cull is necessary to reduce the ecological damage the overabundance of deer are doing in these protected areas, with seedlings and spring wildflowers being significantly impacted.

Metroparks received a deer damage control permit from the Ohio Division of Wildlife to remove up to 125 deer from Side Cut after a recent study revealed that the area had a density of 108 deer per square mile, far more than the 15-25 animals per square mile that wildlife managers in the Midwest consider the maximum that the available habitat can support.

The permit the Metroparks received allows for additional culling to take place in Swan Creek Preserve, Oak Openings Preserve, Wildwood Preserve, Middlegrounds Metropark, and Toledo Botanical Garden, with up to 285 total deer to be removed from the six parks and preserve areas.

“I’m not sure where they are doing their counting, but from my point of view there just are not that many deer in the park,” the 81-year-old Mugler said. “I’ve lived here for 27 years, and my property goes right down to the park’s edge. When I see deer laying down in my yard, I think that’s beautiful. I don’t see it as a problem. I think they’ve done enough culling already.”

This is the first year for deer culls in Side Cut, but in the last couple of years culls have removed deer from Oak Openings Preserve, Wildwood Preserve, and Swan Creek Preserve Metroparks. The culling is conducted by sharpshooters from USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), assisted by Metroparks personnel. All of the animals are processed locally, and the venison is donated to area food pantries and soup kitchens.

“They are not shooting them for the meat,” Mugler said. “I’m not against hunting, and I was a small game hunter for years, but this isn’t hunting. I just don’t think the cull is necessary.”

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Toledo native Bonnie Wakefield is passionate in her opposition to the culls, and angry that alternative population control methods such as sterilization are not being used.

“I think in the minds of the Metroparks people, there is no other option. They determined this is what they are going to do, and that’s the end of the story,” the 73-year-old said. “The alternative methods are out there, and it is so disappointing that they have so little respect for these animals and won’t try another approach.”

The viability of possible alternatives to culling, such as birth control and surgical sterilization, is a subject of intense debate, with some biologists saying the case for non-lethal deer management is fraught with pseudoscience. While many park districts and communities have balked at such methods, either because of the prohibitive costs or a lack of confidence in the effectiveness, some have opted to pay around $1,000 per doe for an ovary removal program, while New York City is spending $2 million to perform vasectomies on white-tailed bucks on Staten Island.

“Other counties and parks have decided they don’t want to kill their deer so they are using these wonderful alternative methods,” Wakefield said. “It costs a lot to try other programs, but these other parks cared enough to do something different. I think we absolutely ought to consider doing the same.”

Toledoan Dean Bobzean said that from his perspective, the Metroparks created the habitat problem by clearing too much of the land in the parks. Bobzean said that as a teen he used to sneak onto the Wildwood property 40 years ago when it was part of the Stranahan family estate, and it was “full of deer back then.”

“Now they come in there with a fleet of equipment and mow everything down, and then they’re shocked there isn’t enough habitat,” Bobzean said. “They say the deer are altering the landscape, but I think the Metroparks did more damage than the deer could ever do. They even admit the deer are not suffering from malnutrition, so why not hold off on the drastic measures like the cull?”

Bobzean, who said he used to hunt deer and still enjoys the venison he receives from his hunting friends, added that he believes the Metroparks is trying to win favor from the public by donating the meat from the culled deer.

“I think that’s all political,” he said. “My solution to all of this talk about the deer is too simple — I say just stop all of the brush cutting and let the parks go back to a more natural state, and then everything will be fine.”

From his home adjacent to the Side Cut park property along the Maumee River, Mugler said he would like the Metroparks to stop the cull and address habitat and wildlife issues in some alternative manner.

“It’s hard for me to see the need for this,” he said. “There has to be another way.”

Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at mmarkey@theblade.com or 419-724-6068.

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