Following a public hearing Monday night, the Aiken City Council gave final approval to the so-called culling amendment, permitting the shooting of guns within city limits for authorized and regulated wildlife culls.
The city code change is effective citywide – as the term suggests.
The decision Monday night was seemingly a divisive one, with people speaking for and against the amendment.
"I'm appalled," one woman said, making various comparisons, including one to slaughter. Another Aiken resident paralleled culls with hunting, offering his support. A third speaker tried to poke holes in the amendment, repeatedly seeking clarifications.
A hearing on the matter in early September played out much the same.
The approval Monday was not unanimous; the vote was 6-1. City Council member Ed Woltz was the sole dissenter.
Before a cull can start, and before guns can be shot, a fee must be be paid to the city, according to the update. That fee would be determined on a case-by-case basis, the city’s attorney, Gary Smith, said Monday.
Those involved have to comply with rules set by the the city's on-call wildlife manager, and a minimum $2 million insurance policy is required. Proof of insurance would be submitted to the Aiken Department of Public Safety chief, currently Charles Barranco.
Sharpshooters contracted for the wildlife cull need to be experienced, the amendment states. Military or law enforcement training is among the qualifications listed.
Before a cull can proceed, safe shooting zones and residential buffers need identifying, it continues. Frangible ammo – disintegrating bullets – is required, as are suppressors. And times in which shooting is OK (from elevated perches only) would be determined by the city's wildlife manager.
The amendment passed Monday is far different than the version advanced earlier this year. The city took public input and formed an ad hoc committee to help refine the relevant wording, officials have said. That committee met more than once.
Wildlife management practices are backed by state law, though the S.C. Department of Natural Resources does not directly oversee individual thinning operations.
Both Smith, the city's attorney, and Barranco, the Public Safety chief, have signed off on the language.
Deer culls have been conducted in the Lowcountry, near Hilton Head and Beaufort, for example. Thousands of deer have been removed – killed and harvested – without incident, according to Charles Ruth, a big-game specialist with SCDNR whom City Council consulted.
"I know it's new to you, but it is not new, OK?" Ruth said in September.