The DuPage County Forest Preserve District on Thursday announced it has completed its annual deer culling program ahead of schedule and, in doing so, gave a pass to nearly 100 deer in district was authorized to shoot.
John Oldenburg, who oversees the program as the district's program manager of grounds and natural resources, said it was cut short because sharpshooters hired by the district had difficulties in recent weeks finding many deer to kill.
A big reason fewer deer were found, he said, is because of the mild weather in last weeks, which has led to blooming plants that provide an alternative food source to the corn with which the district baits the deer.
"We're always concerned about the cost-effectiveness of the program," Oldenburg said. "We ran the program for one [final] week, and we got nothing, so we stopped."
The shortened time line will translate into a smaller budget for the $70,000 program, Oldenburg said, though he was unable to provide specific figures.
"This marks the co0mpletion of the program's seventh year, a contentious season that saw the return of protests by deer culling opponents and a decision by state regulators forbidding any deer killing at McDowell Grove Forest Preserve near Naperville.
The state said the district did not show proof that the deer population had reached such a density that they were destroying McDowell's vegetation.
On Thursday, the controversy continued as officials with the animal right group Showing Animals Respect and Kindness sent a letter to Forest Preserve District President Dewey Pierotti (R-Addison) asking him to review the deer culling program. They said that during an 8-week undercover video operation at Timber Ridge Forest Preserve in Winfield, they discovered the deer population was lower than the district contends.
The district plans to review the program this summer.
Linda Painter of Hinsdale, a longtime critic of the program, said she was glad to see it cut short this year.
"If they had killed all the deer they intended to kill, there would have been several forest preserves without any deer," Painter said.
The district had been issued permits by the state's Department of Natural Resources to cull 251 deer from the preserves between January and March, but it killed only 157, said Oldenburg, who disagreed with Painter's contentions.
Oldenburg said deer populations do not stay in specific forest preserves but instead travel from preserve to preserve, making exact deer counts impossible. He said the fact that the district did not cull all the deer that it could have shows the program is handled responsibly.