Group calls Summit deer kill cruel

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Martin Stolz
Plain Dealer Reporter

Akron- An Illinois group that surreptitiously filmed a deer kill is accusing the Summit County park system of incompetence and cruelty to animals.

Steve Hindi, president of Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, also known as SHARK, said his group hid small digital cameras to observe the current sharpshooting operation in Metro Parks Serving Summit County.

Instead of showing quick deaths, six days of footage show deer suffering after they were shot, missed shots and rangers putting plastic bags over animals' heads as they thrash, Hindi said.

"The practical effect is that they are suffocating the animal alive," he said. "What I don't understand is, why don't you just shoot the animal again?"

Metro Parks spokeswoman Susan Fairweather denied the accusations. The plastic bags are not placed over the heads of living animals, she said.

"All shots have been a direct hit," Fairweather said.

Hindi said his group came to Summit County to observe the work of White Buffalo Inc., a Connecticut- based company headed by Anthony DeNicola, a sharpshooting consultant for parks throughout the world. DeNicola has drawn controversy in some communities in the United States.

The Cleveland MetroParks has hired DeNicola for several years to help cull deer with sharpshooting and to study limiting deer populations with birth control.

DeNicola is "helping to train" rangers for Metro Parks Serving Summit County, Fairweather said. Park rangers are "highly trained sharpshooters," she said.

Hindi said rangers found and seized eight of his hidden cameras. He said they are worth $5,000 and he wants them back. Chief of Rangers Ray Dickson declined to return them and told Hindi that a prosecutor is researching possible criminal charges, Hindi said.

Dickson was not available for comment, Fairweather said, and she declined to comment on the investigation.

Hindi, a former hunter from Geneva, Ill., said county taxpayers deserve to know how their tax dollars are spent.

"If anybody ought to be charged, it's the people who did this to these animals," he said.

The 14-day culling, a first for the Summit park system, began Feb. 22 and ends Saturday at four parks: Sand Run and Cascade Valley, both in Akron; Silver Creek in Norton; and Munroe Falls. It followed 10 years of research, Fairweather said.

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