Meeting clarifies hunting regulations
State wildlife officials assure Bath residents risk is minimal
BATH — The legalities of hunting with a gun, a growing deer population and safety concerns collided Dec. 15 in Bath.
At a public meeting that evening, State Wildlife Officer Jason Warren and State Wildlife Management Supervisor Scott Peters, in addition to Township Administrator William Snow and Police Chief Michael McNeely, attempted to clarify the laws and rules that govern hunting in Ohio and answer residents’ questions and concerns.
About 50 people attended the meeting, some of whom had questions about safety, some about wildlife biology and some about what is and isn’t acceptable during hunting season.
Recently, a bullet from a firearm struck a residence in Bath during youth deer gun season. That incident is under investigation, Warren said. He said incidents he investigates, as the officer assigned to Summit County, are “pretty rare.”
In response to a resident’s voicing her concern that a stray bullet could strike a child playing in the yard, Warren said, “The chances of that happening are pretty slim.” While some in the crowd grumbled their disagreement with his statement, Warren stressed firearms are strictly regulated during hunting season and the range of a shotgun is limited.
A Summit County ordinance prohibits hunting within 100 yards of an occupied structure. [For more on hunting laws and regulations, see sidebar below.]
Peters stated he feels deer overpopulation poses a larger threat than hunting: Statewide in 2008, he said, there were six fatalities and 979 injuries reported as a result of deer-vehicle collisions, and there were two hunter fatalities.
Warren said Summit County led the state in deer-vehicle collisions in 2008, with 601. McNeely added he would estimate there are 25-40 accidents a year caused by deer in Bath.
In response to another question, Peters said deer population is measured by state and by county, but is not broken down to areas such as townships. Deer constantly move about without regard to corporation limits, he said. Likewise, there aren’t numbers available regarding how many permits are issued by the township. He said a hunter who obtains a permit can hunt anywhere in Ohio with it.
Hunting and trapping regulations can be complicated and tricky, Warren said, as evidenced by his answer to a question about a wounded deer running onto private property. If a hunter has permission to hunt on private property and shoots a deer and the deer runs onto another person’s private property and dies, the hunter must obtain permission to go onto that property to tag the deer. Also, though, the regulations state a hunter must immediately tag a deer — which would be impossible, legally, if the property owner doesn’t grant permission to the hunters. There was no clear answer to this dilemma.
A provision in the Ohio Revised Code that states hunting is prohibited within one-half mile of a township park also was discussed. The provision states the applicable board of park commissioners can grant permission to hunt within this area, but Bath doesn’t have a board of park commissioners. The trustees are not empowered to grant this permission, Snow said.
Warren also stated it’s unlikely — or, at least, it’s illegal — that meat processors would process untagged deer. Also, it’s common for bag limits to go unfilled by hunters who get caught up with work or family obligations or when the weather is poor.
Warren stressed that hunters by and large are an ethical bunch, and he rarely gets complaints from Bath.
He drew a laugh when he said, “By far, hunters are a lot easier to deal with than fishermen.”
Deer in Ohio
In 1904, there were no deer in Ohio.
Today, there are 650,000.
The first deer hunting season was in 1943, when 168 deer were harvested. Last year, more than 230,000 deer were taken during the season.
According to Peters, 20 to 30 deer per square mile is considered to be a healthy deer population. Estimates of 100 deer per square mile in parts of Summit County indicate an unchecked deer population, he said.
Most deer in this area live to be about 5 or 6 years old, he said.
Peters said managing the deer population in the state is desirable to reduce vehicle accidents, nuisance and disease. He added it’s a misconception that the deer population can be controlled through some kind of contraception practice.
“That is not a legal option in Ohio,” he said.
Likewise, trapping and relocating deer is not an option, considering the overpopulation of deer statewide, he said.
“Hunters are taking a quarter million deer a year,” he said. “That is how we manage deer in the state of Ohio.”
For more information, call (800) WILDLIFE or Warren at (330) 245- 3042 or visit www.wildohio.com. Suspicions of illegal poaching also can be reported to (800) POACHER.
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