An invasion of skunks in the city produced a heated discussion at Canal Winchester City Council's Sept. 17 meeting, with council members pleading with the city staff to find a way to help residents get rid of the animals and the staff responding that they are doing all they can.
"I've had residents continue to talk to me and since our last council meeting, there are two things that are clear: First, we have an unusually high number of skunks for whatever reason. Next is that it is beyond the individual citizen's (ability) to be able to effectively take care of the problem," Councilwoman Bobbie Mershon said. "If it's going to cost a person $200 per skunk, then we've already heard rumblings that .22 slugs are a lot cheaper. I don't want us dealing with that."
Fairfield County Sheriff's Deputy Jeffrey Reed said anyone caught using a firearm in the city would be subject to jail time because of the seriousness of the offense.
"The other thing you'll deal with if the city hires a trapper is that a trapper is going to kill the animals and you may end up with animal rights groups going after the city," Reed said.
Mershon said she is worried about safety issues if people start trying to shoot the skunks.
"I'm not advocating any one solution, but we need to look at all the options and gather the information so we can look at this on a cost basis and see if we can do anything," Mershon said. "Maybe it's way too expensive, but I think if we can collectively come up with a plan, we can come up with one that won't cost us all a lot of money."
Mayor Michael Ebert and Public Works Director Matt Peoples disagreed.
"You realize we're talking about taking on private-property issues," Ebert said. "Years ago, the village hired a varmint company and it hardly did anything."
Peoples said that in past years, Canal Winchester spent $35,000 on an animal control contract that only resulted in trapping three nuisance animals.
"The residents feel we aren't doing anything, but we've done quite a bit of research, including inviting Mr. Comers from ODNR out," Peoples said. "And Comers said trapping isn't how you get rid of them, that it is most effective to deal with the reasons they stay and to discourage them from staying."
Council President Steve Donahue reiterated the need to continue public outreach and education on the problem, regardless of whether the city took any other further action.
"I suggest we send out the information on the website in condensed form with the water bills," Donahue said.
Peoples agreed to send out the information and said city officials should also continue to direct residents to canalwinchesterohio.gov/mediacenter/Info/TheCitySkunk.pdf for information on helping to get rid of the problem.
"We do have an ordinance against harboring animals and you can't keep a skunk as a pet here," Peoples said.
"Are the skunks going away because you put your dog food away? No, not right away, because it takes a while for them to realize they aren't going to have that food any more," Ebert said. "That's why we put the education piece on the website so people know what they can do, but it's still going to take time for the skunks to give up and go away."