Monday, April 12, 2010

Newest Wildlife Council sees more deer control need

As a Carroll County farmer Kim Davis doesn't view deer as cute creatures observed on a Sunday stroll through a metropark.

Neither does she envision packages of venison or as a mount to be place over the fireplace mantle as a hunter would.

Instead, Davis sees an animal that eats apples, chews it way through corn rows and devours fields of alfalfa.

But Davis is now in a position to do something about Ohio's deer herd. She is the newest member to sit on the eight-person Ohio Wildlife Council, replacing former Council member Gary Grant.

But Davis is also an official with the Ohio Farm Bureau - and that organization would like to see Ohio's deer herd shrink, perhaps as low as 250,000 animals just prior to the start of the state's various hunting seasons. Currently the state's pre-hunt deer population typically runs between 600,000 and 700,000 animals.

The Wildlife Council is made up of equal parts Democrats and Republicans but also is required to have at least two farmers. All appointments are made by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources director. The current Wildlife Council has four farmer/landowners as members.

Davis (a Republican) and her husband own a 280-acre farm in Carroll County on the east side of Leesville Lake where they also operate a year-round camping facility that offers outdoor educational programing for FFA students.

Davis said also that she does not hunt though she does fish a little at Leesville.

"I look forward to participating in the discussion and work on a balance between habitat, wildlife and people. As a farmer and landowner in Carroll County I deal with wildlife on a daily basis," Davis said.

The cornerstone of sound environmental stewardship, Davis says, lies in a healthy resource base and the need to manage that base in such a way "that is economically, socially and ecologically responsible."

Davis says also that as a Farm Bureau member and regional director she supports the organization's policy which calls for a steep reduction in Ohio’s deer herd, perhaps as low as 250,000 animals.

“By listening to my constituents in Carroll, Harrison, Jefferson and Tuscarawas counties and as an (Ohio Farm Bureau) state trustee I have expressed a need for a balance but I’m not exactly sure what that number is or what that number should be,” Davis said.

Davis said she does expect to be pulled in two directions as a Wildlife Council member, with one side representing sportsmen and the other, farmers.

“I think we’ll be able to work on these issues together but the I’ve come to realize that the Wildlife Division has done a good job of communicating with hunters. I feel comfortable with the (new) vetting process," Davis said.

“We need to educate everyone about wildlife and the impact it has on a wide range of constituents. I think we need to work on solutions. The frustrating part is that it’s going to take some time."

Davis does agree that last fall's effort by the Wildlife Division to link hunters with landowners in Davis' region largely fizzled. More work needs to be done by the typically conservative farming community to welcome more hunters, Davis said.

"We encourage our members all to the time to be sensitive to allowing more hunting.
We are confident that there are good hunters out there that need to get onto private ground. That’s still a work in progress. There has to be some confidence in the system but it’s not going to be an early fix. It is a step in the right direction, however,” Davis said as well.

Davis likewise said she sees both sides of the issue regarding the creation of a nine-day firearms deer-hunting season that begins the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

"I think whether it is seven days or nine days the hunters will come out and support the hunt but I do know they like to use the weekend to travel," Davis said.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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