Ninety-five city residents signed a petition that was delivered to Canal Winchester City Council last week, asking officials to deal with an infestation of skunks in the community.
The situation has been a regular topic of discussion at council meetings over the past month.
Residents Erin Burchwell and Janae Miller delivered the petition to council at its Oct. 1 meeting. It asks the city to take immediate action instead of relying on residents to deal with the problem individually.
Law Director Gene Hollins suggested that an immediate response to the skunk issue would be to share the expense of trapping with property owners via case-by-case "moral claims legislation."
Burchwell provided information about Lisa Novak, director of the Ohio Humane Association.
"For $950, Novak agreed to come stay in Canal Winchester for two days to scout out skunk dens, look for foraging sources and talk with residents and city officials to customize a plan for us," Burchwell said. "Now is the perfect time because her plan needs to be implemented in the fall to discourage the skunks from nesting here all winter, but her plan requires 100-percent participation to remove food sources for two weeks."
Besides pet food and compost piles, Burchwell said bird feeders are another key food source for the skunks.
City staff members were concerned because there is no way to guarantee full participation.
"If everybody puts bird feeders and other food away for two weeks, how do we communicate that and make sure it happens? And what is the success rate then?" Councilman Steve Donahue asked.
Councilman Joe Abbott said 100-percent participation would be unrealistic. He, too, was interested in knowing how successful Novak has been in helping other communities eradicate such pests.
"It's my understanding that her customized plan wouldn't require all 7,000 residents to participate at 100-percent, just the ones in the biggest problem areas," Burchwell said. "Novak guarantees that if the problem returns in the spring, then she will return at no further expense to determine an alternate solution."
Councilman John Bender suggested the city follow up with Novak to determine her success rate, get references and consider hiring her services.
"My concern is, will this lady just drive the skunks out of one neighborhood into another?" Abbott said.
Public Works Director Matt Peoples reported that he sent letters to 10 different animal control businesses recently to determine a best course of action for the city, but has only received a response from one so far.
Hollins suggested Peoples continue to follow up with those companies and with Novak and offered the possibility of paying Burchwell a "moral claim" if she chooses to hire a trapper that the city is familiar with and considers reputable.
"I recommend getting a quote from one of those reputable places (such as Varmint Guard or Critter Control) that we might be able to share costs with," he said. "The moral claim process takes legislation (done by resolution) and requires reimbursement to the resident, but it would be a way of dealing with the immediate issue.
In a follow-up email with ThisWeek, Burchwell said she feels the city isn't doing its due diligence and since Peoples did not get quotes for trapping, she is now being asked to do that work.
"I'm glad that Mr. Hollins is speaking about doing something, but I've also talked to a lot of wildlife centers and they'll tell you that you can trap and trap and trap, but until you push the skunks back into the woods, they'll keep coming and re-inhabiting trapped skunks' dens," Burchwell said.