Editor’s note: The following information is a proposal from the Mill Creek MetroParks system. It has not been voted on yet.

CANFIELD, Ohio (WKBN) – The Mill Creek MetroParks system is proposing a program to lower its deer population.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has approved two ways of lowering the deer population: sharpshooting and hunting, and both include killing the deer.

The announcement came at Monday night’s board of commissioners meeting that drew strong and mixed emotions from the crowd. There were two main camps of people at the meeting, hunters who are in favor of opening up the park to them…

“I strongly support a cull hunt for deer but I would suggest that it should be limited to does,” said hunter Edward Norman.

…and park enthusiasts who want to see the deer left alone.

“Finding out that the board are planning to kill deer that are natural inhabitants of the park is seriously disheartening, cruel and very disturbing,” said Janet Bernard, who attended the meeting.

Mill Creek MetroParks commissioned a study of the deer population. The problem is that a lot of people don’t think the information is accurate.

“I do question the accuracy of the infrared aerial survey,” one person said at the meeting.

The study involved taking infrared pictures of deer to track their population. Nick Derico — who works for Mill Creek MetroParks as a natural resources manager and gave the presentation to the board about the deer overpopulation — says the study was done by independent contractors who are experts. They went through each heat signature individually to verify it was deer they were seeing and not another animal.

“Deer will also give off a unique thermal pattern from their coat — how the heat transpires off their coat,” Derico said.

Mill Creek averages 387 deer per square mile, but the optimum number for sustainability should be between 10 and 20. Mill Creek MetroParks is proposing to use a controlled hunt and culling to control its overpopulation of deer. Part of the plan would be implemented under the oversight of the Ohio Division of Wildlife, according to information provided by the park system.

The controlled hunts would take place at select parks where it is deemed safe and appropriate. Hunters would be selected through a lottery system conducted by the Ohio Division of Wildlife and would take place during the regular hunting season between September and February.

In addition, there would be a targeted removal plan for areas where a controlled hunt is not feasible. For that, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s wildlife services would provide marksmen to cull the deer.

All of the venison through the USDA program would be donated to local food banks and other community outreach programs. Albino deer and other deer with unique coloring are strictly off-limits for hunting and sharpshooting.

The board of commissioners will vote on the proposal at their April meeting. More information is provided on the Mill Creek MetroParks website.