Photo of The Dispirited Spirit of Mentor Citizens waiting for action
Last night the City Manager opened a meeting publicized as a Work Session with the suggestion that more study was needed to determine if there was a problem with deer overpopulation in Mentor.
Councilman Shiner expressed the surprise and disappointment reflected on other Council members’ faces when he said, “I was expecting recommendations tonight. We’ve been talking about this for a long time.”
Well, I and the rest of the community members present were surprised and disappointed, too. But at the same time I wouldn’t want Council to take action on any problem before the existence of the problem was firmly established.
Then the City Manager asked Bob Martin, Recreation and Parks Director, and Jason Keller, Lake County wildlife officer for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, to give what information they had about the extent of Mentor’s deer population.
We learned that the highest concentration of deer was in Ward 4 of Mentor because of the large green spaces in the Ward—Mentor Lagoons, Mentor Marsh and Veterans park.
Mentor is capable of sustaining a healthy deer herd of no more than 10-15 deer per square mile.
The aerial count (one of the most accurate ways of counting deer) in the Lagoons-Marsh area showed a count of 33 deer per square mile.
Serious overpopulation by anyone’s standard, but a small problem compared to the situation in Veterans Park. Lake Metroparks has been surveying the deer for the last several years and has counted an annual high of 230 deer per square mile and a low of 70 deer per square mile, averaging 120 deer per square mile.
Jason Keller reported that all over Mentor, the extent of deer browsing has resulted in serious habitat destruction for other animals and plants. He said that standing on the edge of a healthy wooded area, we should be able to see no more than 10-15 yards into the woods. But in Mentor, we can see hundreds of yards into the woods.
Part of Keller’s duties are to thoroughly examine the bodies of dead deer turned over to him by our road department. From their weight of 50-60 pounds, Keller expects to examine a deer about 1.5 years old. Instead, he finds the deer to be 3-4 years old. In Madison, 3-4 year old deer weight 100-120 pounds.
Mentor’s deer herd is not healthy. He reports that they’re feeding on vegetation they’ve never before eaten. In my own garden (across the street from Veterans Park) this year, for the first time deer have eaten my hydrangeas, mums, lily of the valley, King Solomon’s seal and dahlias.
That last plant threw me. Dahlias are desert plants, something totally foreign to the DNA and appetite of a Northeastern White Tail Deer. Unless it’s starving, as evidenced by Keller’s report of being able to see our deer’s ribs.
Keller blamed people’s feeding the deer for part of our overpopulation of unhealthy deer.
Another indication of Mentor’s deer overpopulation wasn’t mentioned at last night’s meeting. The Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) in Columbus awarded first place to Mentor for having more car/animal crashes from 2007-2009 than any other local community! We racked up 245 crashes.
50% more, to be exact. Because NOACA depends on using figures sent to them by insurance companies. In checking with the Mentor Police Department, I found that 50% of Mentor residents involved in car/deer accidents report the accident to the police but opt not to report it to their insurance companies.
So in reality, there were probably 367 car/deer accidents in Mentor.
Though there are some city officials who consider the above shaky evidence of deer overpopulation, I ask them to reconsider their assessment.
Emboldened by the Italian Port Authority Director who said, “Get back on the boat now! Damn it!”, I have a message for our city officials: “Get back to work! Throw over-caution to the wind, and DO something! Damn it!”