JOLIET – The issue of deer population control on Forest Preserve District of Will County land returned Wednesday to the committee discussion level.
The district’s Board of Commissioners’ Operations Committee positively recommended, with a 7-4 vote, the 2016-17 deer management recommendations to the full board, to be carried out in the winter months. The district is proposing that 200 total deer be removed from nine preserves.
Committee members Robert Howard, D-Beecher; Judy Ogalla, R-Monee; Mike Fricilone, R-Homer Glen; and Steve Balich, R-Homer Glen, voted against the recommendations.
In 2010, the board approved a 2010-11 plan for the district’s deer management program. The plan established that sharpshooting was to be used to manage the deer population to achieve an initial target density of 20 to 30 deer per square mile. Although the overall deer management program was approved, each year staff provide specific recommendations on the number of deer to be removed from select forest preserves.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has various requirements of counties before it gives the green light for removal. The district comes to its recommendations through aerial and ground-level assessments. The forest preserve police perform the sharpshooting, and deer meat that passes health inspection is brought to food pantries.
Howard said he’d like to see a moratorium on deer culling until more information is collected. Hunters in District 1, which covers five townships in eastern Will County, have commented to him they are seeing fewer deer and have asked why hunters aren’t allowed to perform the removal.
Another element to population control, Howard said, is that the eastern end of the county borders Indiana and there’s no way to tell whether deer are moving back and forth across the state line.
Howard said the district assessments don’t reflect a true number and they should look at the entire county, not just preserves, because deer are an edge-of-the-woods animal that also spends time in cornfields and creek bottoms. He said he’d like to see the IDNR do a count.
Committee member Chuck Maher, R-Naperville, said at some point the board will have to make an unpopular vote on the matter as the issue continues to come up each year.
Ogalla said the need for the program came from various types of development throughout the county. Because of it, deer have fewer places to run and pose more of a safety threat in certain areas to motorists. She noted that preserves in areas such as Naperville are more surrounded by residential communities.