Group keeps close eye on deer kill
Animal rights agency sets up cameras in park, says animals suffocated
Wednesday, March 03, 2004
By Bob Downing
Beacon Journal staff writer
An Illinois-based animal rights group hid cameras in Summit County parks and videotaped sharpshooters killing white-tailed deer.
The activist group, Show Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK), contends the film footage from Cascade Valley Metro Park in Akron shows three deer being shot and then suffocated.
Michael Johnson, a spokesman for Metro Parks, Serving Summit County, disputes that, saying the description of the killings is ``totally inaccurate'' and no animals have been suffocated.
Steve Hindi, a spokesman for SHARK, said the tapes, which were made available to the media, show three deer that were shot in the head. While the animals were alive and still moving, he said, plastic bags were put over their heads.
The deer should have been shot again, Hindi said.
Johnson, however, said the deer died immediately after being shot in the head. They may have continued to move for several minutes, he said, but such movements are natural.
No plastic bags were placed on animals still alive or still breathing, he said. The bags were used on the dead deer to keep blood from draining onto the ground.
The film also shows people digging up soil and vegetation covered in deer blood, Hindi said.
That did take place, Johnson said, and was part of the park district's plan. Park officials felt it was important to clean up the blood for aesthetic reasons and to keep the blood from scaring away deer that might be shot later.
The park district is shooting as many as 125 deer in four parks: Sand Run and Cascade Valley in Akron, Munroe Falls in Munroe Falls and Silver Creek in Norton. That sharpshooting program, designed to reduce the growing deer herd, began Feb. 23 and is to end on Saturday.
Park officials found and confiscated eight recording devices with 150 hours of tape from Cascade Valley, Sand Run and Munroe Falls parks. But Hindi said SHARK had additional recording devices that were not detected.
He declined to say how many devices were installed or where they were.
The park system is still investigating the hidden cameras, said Chief Ranger Ray Dickson. He declined to comment further.
Hindi said park officials refused to release the confiscated video equipment and were looking into filing criminal charges against him.
``That's more than a little sad,'' he said. ``We were just trying to open up the program to public scrutiny because animals are being killed in public parks with taxpayers' money. The fact that they want to charge us and intend to continue (to shoot deer) is just ridiculous.''
Johnson declined to say how many deer have been shot by park rangers and by sharpshooters from White Buffalo, a Connecticut-based firm.
A report will be released at the end of the hunt, Johnson said.
Hindi said SHARK, which has a dozen members and is based in Geneva, Ill., got involved in the Summit County hunt because of White Buffalo.
That firm has been involved in a number of deer-management operations across the country, Hindi said, and SHARK has had White Buffalo ``in its sights for some time.''
``We decided to investigate and see how sharp they are: whether they're really sharpshooters or hacks,'' Hindi said. ``We're not impressed.''