Low deer kill not the end of policy debate

Friday, March 10, 2000

The Daily Herald (Chicago area)

By Diana Wallace

Deer-kill season has ended early in the forest preserves of DuPage County this year, with the county eliminating far fewer animals that the state allowed.

Since January, 157 deer have been culled from the forest preserves by sharpshooters from the county and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The forest preserve initially intended to kill up to 400 deer, later reducing the number to 350. Eventually, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources approved 251 permits. This stemmed from fewer deer being targeted at Waterfall Glen near Darien, Herrick Lake in Wheaton and Meacham Grove in Bloomingdale.

John Oldenburg, manager of grounds and natural resources for the forest preserve district said the program ended early mainly because the deer level appeared to have dropped to more ecologically viable levels and because the warmer weather made the deer more difficult to target.

Despite the reduced number of animals killed this year, the program continues to be the target of criticism and concern that the forest preserve district is overestimating the number of deer in the forest preserves.

Linda Painter, a program critic who lives near Waterfall Glen, said that if the forest preserve district had eliminated as many deer as originally planned, entire populations could be have been wiped out.

But Oldenburg said counting deer is not an exact science because populations are constantly changing, and the animals don't stay in one place all the time.

Steve Hindi of the Geneva-based Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, said that organization secretly videotaped bait sites in the Timber Ridge preserve and that virtually no deer were picked up on camera.

"The deer population has "been ravaged," said Hindi, who is presenting the findings to forest preserve board Chairman Dewey Pierotti. "There is a tiny fraction of what used to be there," said Hindi.

Forest preserve Commissioner Roger Jenisch said he supports the basic philosophy behind the program – to eliminate deer to keep the ecological system in balance because there are no longer natural deer predators in the region – but still is troubled by how the numbers are determined.

"I'm sort of glad it's over," said Jenisch, adding he's been inundated with complaints about the deer kill this season. "We need to retool this thing … We need a better way to explain what, how and why we're doing it."

On Thursday, the forest preserve district's operations committee made tentative plans to hold a forum on the deer-kill program next summer to get public input and re-examine the program.

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