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Council makes plans to deal with rising deer population

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The two most recent city council meetings brought with them the concern over the deer population within the city limits.

Beginning two weeks ago, The Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ (ODNR) Division of Wildlife representative Chris Smith assessed the deer population in Athens during a city council committee meeting. Smith wrote a report and a plan on how to deal with the rising population and plans return to the council and propose a solution to the problem.

“This is an issue that reaches a lot of people and so we need to get a survey or something out to help with the assessment,” Council President Jim Sands said. 

The council recognizes that only people with a deer problem will turn the surveys back in.

“We could ask this with other questions about city issues to get a good statistical response back,” Second Ward Rep. Jeffrey Risner said. 

There could be a variety of reasons why this problem is occurring. Deer numbers could just be increasing in general, they are running out of food in their habitats, or people are moving into their areas and they are just adapting to Athens, according to Smith.

“I live within the city limits and there is a herd of about 13 in my backyard. They aren’t scared of dogs or people and are eating a lot of our plants,” Third Ward representative Michele Papai said. 

There are a variety of ways they can deal with the deer after ODNR assess the situation.

“There is a reason they (the deer) are here. So we need to address non-lethal methods first, like not planting things the deer want to eat, or putting up fences that the deer can’t get over,” Smith said.

If these methods fail to work or the population is so large that it cannot be fixed by ODNR, lethal methods such as slowly introducing archery hunting could become an option, according to Smith.

Council members agreed upon gathering more information before final decisions are made.

“We need to educate the public and in order to do so we need hard facts to present to them,” Fourth Ward Rep. Chris Fahl said. 

Right now ODNR only has county-by-county numbers, but they are working to get smaller areas, such as cities, counted as soon as possible.

“Wildlife populations are not an exact science, you have to see a trend,” Smith said.

Right now the trend in counties in Ohio are above target and above what ODNR would like to see, according to Smith. There are several counties in Pennsylvania that have complained of a rising deer population as well, making the issue larger than southeastern Ohio, according to Smith. 

“They may be moving gradually or fast, maybe it’s because of Stroud’s Run,” Fahl said. “Our population is connected to larger populations because it isn’t an isolated population. East State Street used to be a barrier, but not anymore.”


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