WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) — A new amended complaint by Wheeling city residents alleges that Oglebay Park and Wheeling Park Commission officials have been lying about the upcoming deer culling, according to West Virginia Record.
West Virginia Record reports the original petition was filed October 3 in Ohio Circuit Court, and the amended petition filed October 6, has information from the Division of Natural Resources that show what the petition calls previously unknown “critical facts.”
It is reported that DNR Wildlife Biologist Thomas K. Pratt states he had only had one email communication with Oglebay, which was a draft of the rules that Oglebay put together and asked Pratt to look over. He states that he never discussed survey population estimates, nor were permits discussed or given.
The plaintiffs allege that Oglebay Park, the Oglebay Park Foundation, and the Wheeling Park Commission have incompletely communicated with the DNR by not submitting a final version of the rules and left unanswered questions about Oglebay’s final rules of the hunt and deer populations.
West Virginia Record reports that there is no documentation on the amount of deer or overpopulation information at all from the DNR.
In response to the lawsuit, Oglebay said in a statement, “Currently our team is reviewing the legal filing and preparing to proceed with a thoughtful and appropriate course of action that best fits with the needs of our park and local community.
It is also alleged Oglebay is still lying to the public in its marketing materials promoting the hunt, stating that relocating the deer was against West Virginia law, but Pratt says that relocating is permissible with DNR approval, and there is no record of Oglebay seeking approval.
West Virginia Record also shows that there is no document from the DNR that states the Oglebay deer are diseased, and if the deer had damaged Oglebay property. West Virginia law allows for property owners to file a damage report with the DNR, which would possibly allow for a permit for the owner to kill one or more deer.
According to the West Virginia Record, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request indicates that the defendants in the case never reported damage to crops, trees, nurseries, or shrubbery to the DNR.
West Virginia Record reports that the DNR has not authorized the Oglebay Urban Deer Hunt scheduled for November.
Wheeling attorney Teresa Toriseva told the West Virginia Record after filing the amended petition, “Hunting on public land is illegal in West Virginia. Contrary to what Oglebay has stated publicly and repeatedly, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources has not permitted or approved this hunt. Worse than that, DNR did not do population studies in Oglebay and weren’t asked to do so.”
Toriseva goes on to tell the West Virginia Record that Oglebay Park and the Wheeling Park Commission have spent $41,000 on a public relations firm to handle bad press instead of finding non-lethal alternatives to a problem they created.
West Virginia Record says that the plaintiffs are seeking a writ of prohibition and a petition for injunctive relief to stop the deer hunt scheduled for November 6-8. And to also seek to stop the defendants’ hand feeding and taming of the deer. Baiting and feeding wildlife in public is illegal, but the petition says the defendants have created “a sanctuary-like setting for wildlife” knowing this.
The plaintiffs also say the defendants could have stopped the illegal hand-feeding in the park at any time.
West Virginia Record reports that the Deer Management Plan that Oglebay drafted had no solution for adjacent landowners when a deer injured in the hunt wanders onto their property. There is also no requirement to take sick or weak deer, leaving hunters to take large healthy specimens leaving the sick, and unhealthy which negates the benefit of the hunt.
According to the petition, the plaintiffs are not asking the court to prohibit all urban deer hunts, even ones at Oglebay, only to authorize such a hunt within the bounds of its authority. This means that before a hunt should occur, the park should attempt to comply with existing laws designed to prevent the taming and overpopulation that is occurring.
West Virginia Record reports that the plaintiffs ask the court to temporarily and preliminarily enjoin the defendants from allowing the hunt to happen to direct the defendants to immediately prohibit the feeding of the Oglebay Deer.
Stay with 7News and WTRF.com for updates to this developing story.
Video is today’s top stories.