The hunt is on in Solon.
On Tuesday, voters soundly rejected a proposed law to ban deer hunting in town, with about 62 percent of residents voting to reject the hunting ban.
Now city officials -- who have been working for months to prepare deer culling efforts in the event the hunting ban was defeated -- are scheduling meetings, securing properties for culling operations and getting ready to begin reducing the deer population.
Mayor Susan Drucker said culling operations -- which will be overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture -- will likely begin early next year.
Ward 7 Councilman Bill Russo, the city's chief supporter of culling efforts, said the results show that Solon voters have supported the city's culling efforts.
"I think the residents were behind the culling that was done back in 2004-05 and I think they realized there is a comprehensive plan and they want to give the administration all the tools needed to control the deer population and control deer-vehicle accidents," Russo said.
But deer-hunting opponents, who were very vocal in the run-up to the election, say that Solon leaders must not ignore the more than 3,000 voters who wanted to ban hunting.
"This is a strong and clear mandate that city hall must take a very serious look at their plan and improve it to be a more balanced plan, to represent the wishes of the electorate," said resident John Nolan, one of the most visible opponents of deer hunting. "The city already admits in principal that a comprehensive plan should include both lethal and non-lethal methods, but their adopted plan falls far short of serious non-lethal methods."
Russo said that he's tired of residents saying that the city's plan pays short shrift to non-lethal methods.
"We are going to use all of the tools in the plan," Russo said. "The proponents think that we are not addressing the non-lethal means. But that is in the plan."
Solon officials created the deer management plan because the population has exploded in recent years, causing the number of deer/car accidents to rise. There were 450 deer and 45 accidents in 2009. In 2011, city officials project more than 1,069 deer and 91 accidents.
The plan says a safe level of deer density is 10 to 15 deer per square mile. In 2010, there were 34 deer per square mile in Solon.
The comprehensive plan offers three lethal options: trapping and euthanasia, and sharpshooting.
Trapping and euthanasia would be used in areas where residents are concerned about safety and hunting is not an option.
Crossbow hunting, the same program the city considered and scrapped earlier this year, would be attempted on city-owned property, and is the least-expensive lethal option.
Crossbow hunting would be used to supplement culling to reduce the cost, Russo said. Drucker said crossbow hunting won't happen this year because it's already in the middle of bow-hunting season.
"We are not going to do the bowhunting this year," Drucker said. "That time came and went."
Sharpshooting – hiring snipers to attract deer to fixed locations and shoot them – is the . The city used a sharpshooting program between 2005 and 2009. The program was expensive but effective. More than 1,300 deer were culled during the program.
Eight non-lethal options are presented, including a ban on deer feeding, repellents, fencing and patrol dogs. But many of the options are dismissed as unproven or ineffective or requiring residents to buy-in to be effective.
The plan also calls for a communication and public outreach effort to educate residents about dealing with deer.