WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) – Oglebay Park and the other defendants in the lawsuit to stop a deer hunt at the park filed a motion Wednesday to dismiss the suit, Oglebay representatives confirmed to 7News.
Defendants Oglebay Park, the Oglebay Park Foundation and the Wheeling Park Commission contend that the plaintiffs, a group of Wheeling residents, did not include these indispensable parties in the suit: the state Division of Natural Resources, the City of Wheeling, the Oglebay Foundation Properties, Inc. and Parks System Trust Fund.
The motion to dismiss also claims that Oglebay Park and Oglebay Park Foundation, Inc. are not proper parties in the case and that this is yet another reason that the lawsuit should be dismissed.
Oglebay Park had planned an urban deer culling at their resort on November 6-8 to curb the rapidly growing deer population within West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle region.
However, on Oct. 3, a group of Wheeling residents represented by attorney Teresa Toriseva filed a lawsuit to stop the deer hunt. The lawsuit, filed in Ohio County Circuit Court, claims that Oglebay deer are part of the public property and have been hand-fed by locals and tourists, making the deer tame. Toriseva mentions West Virginia Code in the lawsuit which says it’s illegal to bait or feed any wildlife on public land at any time.
The defendants say that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) does not control any land at Oglebay and any rules such regarding the illegality of baiting or feeding wildlife, which the suit contends the defendants allowed, are not applicable in this instance since Oglebay Park is private land.
The plaintiffs filed an amended petition Oct. 6 claiming that the “The defendants have consistently and repeatedly lied…” about the numbers in the deer population, whether relocating the deer was legal under Department of Natural Resources guidelines, that the deer are diseased and that deer are damaging park property.
The defendants also cite a 2017 deer survey conducted by the West Virginia University Extension Service that the Wheeling Park Commission requested. That survey reportedly found that the park has 212.1 deer per square mile. An area is considered overpopulated when there are 40 deer per square mile. The defendants claim this number of deer reduces resources and habitat for other species of animals.
The defendants also say that Oglebay Foundation does not own land at the park and that the plaintiffs do not allege wrongful acts or violation of the law by the Oglebay Foundation.
The plaintiffs requested an injunction to stop the deer hunt and the hand-feeding and taming of the deer.
The defendants are represented by James C. Gardill, Richard N. Beaver and Jeffery D. Kaiser of Phillips Gardill Kaiser & Altmeyer in Wheeling.
A hearing regarding the dismissal of the case was slated for Friday, but will be now be scheduled.