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Local News

Animal rights group questions Forest Preserve District's deer culling program

District officials firmly deny cruelty claims

JOLIET – A regional animal protection organization is questioning the need for and safety of the Will County Forest Preserve District’s deer culling program.

Steve Hindi, president of the group Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, claims hidden video his group says it captured during a deer culling event in Will County exposes unnecessary cruelty. In the video, he alleges, a trained sharpshooter missed its target and the deer was never recovered.

Hindi spoke Thursday before the Forest Preserve District Board.

District officials firmly denied the claims, noting data from the program.

“The sharpshooters are given a certain number of bullets. Any bullets still left, we receive. Every bullet is accounted for. If there’s a missing bullet, but no deer, that’s how we’d know,” said Marcy DeMauro, forest preserve district executive director. “As of right now, all the data would suggest that we haven’t missed any.”

District officials began the culling program – which is regulated by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources – in 2010 to reduce deer overpopulation in the forest preserves.

The animal rights activist group wants a review of the district’s deer management program.

Board member Bob Howard, D-Beecher, said there’s no way to verify the authenticity of the video circulated by the group SHARK.

“With the invention of this,” he said, pointing to his smartphone, “basically there’s video out there. But the only problem is we can’t tell who’s taking it, if it’s actually in our area. You could take an unethical kill and put it on a video and say it happened in Will County.”

Hindi on Thursday also questioned the need for population reduction, saying the deer remain a healthy weight.

Howard argued it’s more inhumane to wait until a deer population is so overpopulated that resources become limited.

“Without the program, at some point, we’ll reach a point where the acreage that we have will only sustain a certain number of animals,” Howard said. “It would be inhumane to allow it to get to that point.”

DeMauro said there’s also the issue of whether Hindi and his group had permission to set up video cameras on district land. A special use permit is required to film or videotape on district property, DeMauro said, but there’s no record of Hindi or the organization requesting a permit.

Whether the district will pursue any action regarding the alleged unauthorized taping on district land is yet to be determined, DeMauro said.

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