Fear the Deer? Ottawa Hills voters to decide on a bow hunt cull

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OTTAWA HILLS, Ohio (13abc Action News) - The streets of Ottawa Hills are quiet; houses are tucked away in the trees. For many, it's exactly why they live there. But for some nature is starting to get a little too close to home.

"We've seen the situation get progressively worse," Devin Denner, who lives in Ottawa Hills said.

"We have noticed that they have become much more familiar with humans, and they've become much more aggressive with our pets," Leah Hileman, who lives in Ottawa Hills said.

They're talking about white-tailed deer. Chances are, you've seen them if you've ever driven through the village.

"Our homes is next to a field," Denner said. "It's not uncommon to have 3 to 5 deer in our yard, all day."

Denner says now is the time to do something.

"The balance of the ecosystem is actually skewed," he said of the herd.

13abc canvassed the village to see this problem first hand. We found deer. Some close to homes and in meadows, but nothing destructive or dangerous.

Dozens of homeowners have had very different encounters. From pet attacks and car accidents, to backyards being taken over and landscapes decimated.

"If any population, be it plan or animal, gets out of hand, it can be a limiting factor, or a negative effect," Steve Madewell, Executive Director of the Metroparks said.

The Metroparks does it's own type of wildlife management, from gypsy moths to deer. Madewell says the deer over-population isn't just an Ottawa Hills or and Ohio problem; it's an eastern United States problem.

In the village, there is a proposal on the November ballot that proponents say will help.

Issue 13 changes the village ordinance to allow for a controlled bow hunt to manage the deer population.

"We are concerned about the health of the deer," Hileman says. "They are much skinnier than they used to be."

Those for Issue 13 say that's the biggest reason for the cull, to improve the health of the herd.

If adopted, it will mirror a similar program in Granville, Ohio, near Columbus. It's extensive and includes strict rules.

For example, hunters must be licensed. They must also complete and pass background checks and safety programs. Hunters also have to apply for authorization through the police chief.

The Granville program also prohibits the use of fire arms and requires the homeowner to allow the hunt on their property.

Specifics about Ottawa Hills program and exactly how it will work aren't set in stone. Proponents say it will be driven by the citizens at virtually no cost. If it passes, the village will take small steps, possibly not "taking" as many deer the first time, so it can figure out what will work best.

"I'm not going to vote for something I don't feel confident in," Lynn Masson, who lives in Ottawa Hills said.

Masson says she sees deer on her street, but the avid gardener doesn't think they're a problem. She says thanks to a little research she keeps them out of her yard.

"This is our sage, some lavender," she said walking through her garden. "You're not bothered by animals."

She like many others have a slew of questions. Most have serious safety concerns.

"If the deer hunt were to pass, despite anyone's best intentions, there is no way that you can completely guarantee safety," Daryl Moreau, who's against Issue 13, said.

He says the risks are just too high. On top of that, he truly believes it isn't necessary.

"They think there is somehow this proliferation of deer and that's just not the case," Moreau said.

He argues there have only bee four deer related car accident in 2015, which is fairly consistent with years past.

Plus, he says despite the deer population growth across the state, numbers in the village haven't really changed; 76 were counted in 2009 and 78 in 2015.

"We're not talking about a vicious animal here," Moreau says. "If a deer sees a human it runs the other way."

There is a lot riding on this November vote, and it seems the battle lines have been drawn.