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Parks' deer hunt starts, ends quietly

134 deer shot so far. Animal rights group objects to killing methods

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Beacon Journal (Akron, OH)

By Bob Downing

SHARK contends the tapes showed that the deer were being mistreated - Since Nov. 1, sharpshooters have quietly killed 134 white-tailed deer in three parks managed by Metro Parks, Serving Summit County.

In a three-page statement, the park district said Wednesday that 78 deer were killed at Liberty Park in Twinsburg, 42 were shot at Cascade Valley Metro Park in North Akron and 14 were killed in Munroe Falls Metro Park in Munroe Falls.

The park district provided 5,695 pounds of meat from the slain animals to the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank for the needy.

Park personnel, who shot the deer in the closed parks at night, have completed the shooting for this season. The shooting was done with no public announcement to avoid confrontations and potential problems with an animal rights group.

Park spokesman Michael Johnson said the shooting took place in November and December, but he declined further comment because of a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Akron last month by Showing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK), an Illinois-based animal rights group.

``They're on the alert, they're on the defensive,'' said SHARK spokesman Steve Hindi. ``They wanted to keep it quiet.... But they're bound and determined to kill deer.''

Hindi said he expects the suit, which sought an injunction to stop the deer killing, to proceed.

The suit was filed after the park commissioners in October decided to take no action on Hindi's complaints about last winter's deer killing to reduce the size of the herd.

The suit alleges that the park district, two rangers and a consultant were involved in damaging and erasing video equipment that SHARK placed in four Summit County parks where deer were being shot: Silver Creek, Sand Run, Cascade Valley and Munroe Falls.

The suit names rangers Dave Rankin and Justin Simon and Anthony DeNicola, president of White Buffalo Inc., a Connecticut-based company that helped the park district shoot the 119 deer last winter.

Last March, the park district disciplined Rankin and Simon. The two rangers were not involved in erasing or destroying the recorders, but they did break district rules and procedures, officials said. that the animals were shot and then dragged or suffocated with plastic bags over their heads while they were still moving.

Park and state officials said no deer were mistreated, and that such twitching is common. They said the plastic bags were placed over the animals' heads to keep blood from draining onto the ground.

Local prosecutors declined to pursue criminal charges against park officials for damaging SHARK's recording equipment and declined to pursue charges against SHARK for trespassing in the parks.

This season, the park district has state permits, running until Dec. 31, to shoot up to a total of 66 deer at Cascade Valley and Munroe Falls parks and another 150 deer at Twinsburg's Liberty Park, said Damon Greer of the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

The shooting from elevated stands within the parks could continue through the end of the year, but Greer said park officials told his agency that they have spent all available funds and that the shooting is done.

Greer said he was unaware of any problems with the deer killing.

The park district was under no obligation to make a public statement about the deer killing getting under way, he said.

A more sweeping statement was ``an unnecessary and unneeded effort'' that could have potentially created a dangerous situation if SHARK members tried to interfere, he said.